Chinese authorities have pressed the alert button and put in place emergency measures to prevent the spread of the H7N9 bird flu strain as hundreds of millions of citizens travel home to be with their families for the all import Lunar New Year coming up later this week.
Spread of virus strain during Spring Festival or Chinese New Year travel period — considered to be largest annual movement of people in the world — could not have come at a worse time.
The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention told state media that as of Tuesday the bird flu had killed 19 in China this year. The total number of human infections has reached 104 in the same period.
Over 40 people had died and at least 140 more were infected by the virus in China in 2013.
This year, emergency measures like culling of poultry and the suspension of live poultry trading have been put in place in many city and regions aross China. Authorities are specially fousing on Zhejiang Province that had reported 53 human H7N9 infections, including 12 deaths this year.
“The province has launched emergency surveillance of poultry farms, haunts of migrant birds and parks, in addition to halting the flying of domestic pigeons,” state media reported.
Shanghai, which neighbors Zhejiang, will halt live poultry trading from January 31 to April 30 and strengthen surveillance of poultry and industry staff. The city has reported eight human H7N9 infections in January, four of whom died, including one doctor. Not only the spread of the virus, authorities have had to quell the spread of rumours related to the infectious disease.
At least two men have been arrested, the state media said, for spreading fear and panic with wrong information.