The H7N9 bird flu has broken out in China, which has led to the officials in the city of Shanghai ordering for a temporary closure of all the poultry markets in the city. There is also a possibility that all imports of live poultry into the country may come to a halt. It is reported that the H7N9 avian flu has prevailed since early March this year and has already claimed two lives; while five more people are currently in a critical condition. So far fourteen people have been confirmed infected by this flu virus.
The virus was first detected in pigeons sold in a market in Shanghai, and since then a slaughter of at least 20 000 chickens has been ordered which was due to begin by Thursday afternoon. It is expected that all trading of live poultry in Shanghai and some Eastern parts of China will be suspended by Saturday.
Wu Fan, a Shanghai health official was quoted to have announced at a press conference that there was no possibility of the infection spreading overseas. According to the World Health Organisation, otherwise known as the “WHO”, there has not been any evidence of human – to human transmissions of this influenza. Although there is at least one case which is believed to have been a human-to human transmission and which is currently being closely monitored.
One of the biggest worries at the moment is the possibility of non-transparency in the reporting of the events connected to this virus, as some Chinese news agencies have complained about the timeliness and transparency of the information being disbursed by the Chinese government. China has in the past been accused of concealing information when it comes to health crises.
It is not expected that the perceived spread of the H7N9 virus will have a major impact on South Africans and in the South African poultry industry, as more than 70% of the poultry products imports into the country are from Brazil. The strict rulings that are also applied for the import of poultry and other animal products should set the country at ease. Even though according to statistics South Africans rely mainly on poultry products for the supply of proteins, compared to all other meat products combined.