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Bird flu deaths bring live poultry market ban in Hunan province

Live poultry sales are being shut down in China’s central Hunan province because one strain of bird flu has turned deadly for people. Americans are being cautioned about the outbreak, but are not being warned against travel to Hunan.

China is temporarily closing the live poultry markets in Hunan because five deaths are now attributed to the H7N9 avian flue strain. Hunan is a mountainous province in southern China, best known for being home of Mao Zedong, known as Chairman Mao.

livemarket_406x250Others are taking defensive measures in response to the continuing worldwide spread of avian flu strains.

Hong Kong on Wednesday imposed a ban on poultry and eggs from Poland’s Poznanski and Olesnicki Districts, areas from which it last year imported 20,500 tons of frozen poultry meat and 4.8 million eggs. The Center for Food Safety shut Hong Kong to poultry meat and egg products from Poland because of the outbreak of highly pathogenic H5N8 avian influenza being experienced in the eastern European country.

And it is not just Europe. Myanmar, formerly Burma, is also experiencing an outbreak of highly pathogenic H5N6 bird flu. Hong Kong has not imported any poultry meat or eggs from the Southeast Asian country, but it has also been banned from the exporting poultry products to Hong Kong.

Both H5N8 and H5N6 are strains of Avian influenza that don’t typically make humans sick, but it can happen. These so-caled bird flus are highly contagious viral diseases. The world has been in the midst of an epidemic of them for the past two years.

According to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), 13 strains of Avian flu were detected in 77 countries from January 2014 through the end of 2016. Thousands of birds — both wild and domestic — had to be destroyed. The United States has been getting a break from bird flu, but not Asia and Europe. As more outbreaks have occurred, countries have had to make adjustments in their poultry sources.

“The CFS has contacted the Polish and Myanmar authorities over the issues and will closely monitor information issued by the OIE on avian influenza outbreaks. Appropriate action will be taken in response to the development of the situation,” a spokesman said.

OIE says the various strains of avian influenza mean bird flu must viewed as a global public health threat.

At the end of January, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned U.S travelers to China to avoid live poultry markets because of an outbreak of H7N9 avian influenza. China’s outbreak has racked up at least 229 human victims.

The CDC did not recommend against travel to China, but suggest not going near poultry while visiting China, mainly by staying away from poultry markets and farms.

Hong Kong and Macau along with Jiangsu, Fujian and Guangdong are among the other areas of China where people have been treated for infections from the bird flu virus. There is no vaccine for H7N9.

Americans in China are being advised not to touch birds, pigs or other animals, dead or alive. Food should be fully cooked and street vendors in China are best avoided.

China began reporting the H7N9 virus in people in the spring of 2013, mostly from contact in poultry markets. China has also reported some rare human-to-human transmissions.  Symptoms are similar to seasonal flu, including fever, cough, sore throat, muscle aches, fatigue, loss of appetite and runny or stuffy nose.

About 100 new  cases of  the H7N9 virus in humans have been reported in China during 2017, and about 20 were in Hunan province.

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