BEIJING, Jan. 27 (Xinhua) -- China has banned live fowl trading in some areas, after more human H7N9 infections and deaths have been reported in several provinces.
According to the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the bird flu has killed 19 in China this year, and the total number of human infections has reached 96.
Live poultry trading was halted in Hangzhou, Ningbo and Jinhua cities in eastern Zhejiang Province, which has reported 49 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.
Shanghai, which neighbors Zhejiang, will halt live poultry trading from Jan. 31 to April 30 this year 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. The city's health authority will make use of media to publicize prevention information about H7N9.
Guangdong Province in south China reported 26 new H7N9 cases and four deaths so far in January.
Hong Kong's health authority on Monday evening confirmed an H7N9 case at a local agricultural market and will cull about 20,000 birds in the market on Tuesday morning.
Pang Xinghuo, deputy head of the Beijing Disease Prevention and Control Center, said Monday the capital had enough test reagents for suspected H7N9 infection cases. The center will strengthen training and check-ups on infection control in medical institutions, according to Pang.
Other provinces, such as Jiangsu, Fujian and Hunan also reported new H7N9 cases.
Improved surveillance methods and networks have increased the possibility of confirming new cases, but this does not mean a more rapid transmission of the virus, said Zhong Nanshan, director of the Guangzhou Institute of Respiratory Diseases in Guangdong Province.
"It deserves high attention when the infection cases increase by dozens or hundreds of times. Currently, public panic is unnecessary given the slow transmission speed," he added.
Zhong suggested adjustments to epidemic control tactics, including the early and longer use of antiflu drug Tamiflu for H7N9 patients.
The government should explore the poultry consumption model of mass slaughter and frozen products, suggested Zhang Yonghui, director of the Guangdong Center for Disease Prevention and Control.
Hangzhou is planning to close live poultry trading markets permanently and promote the supply chains of frozen poultry products instead, Zhang Hongming, acting mayor of the provincial capital of Zhejiang, told Xinhua.
China has also made progress in vaccine research for H7N9.
Hualan Biological Engineering Inc. said in early January that the H7N9 vaccine developed by its subsidiary Hualan Biological Bacterin Co., Ltd. had passed an initial examination and was being handled by the food and drug watchdog in central Henan Province, but it will be a long time before the production of H7N9 vaccines.
With the epidemic developing in some areas, the Chinese government has been on high alert. The General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine intensified H7N9 bird flu virus monitoring at borders to prevent cross-border transmission.
Staff at customs will measure body temperature, conduct medical inspections and report on the health of passengers.
The National Health and Family Planning Commission said Monday that sporadic H7N9 cases will continue in some cities. The commission urged local health departments to strengthen prevention and control measures and ensure the implementation of them during the Spring Festival.
Chinese Vice Premier Liu Yandong on Sunday called for coordinated efforts to prevent and control H7N9 avian flu, urging local departments to keep on high alert and cooperate in prevention and control of the disease.
Experts said on Monday that a large-scale H7N9 epidemic is unlikely during the Spring Festival holiday, as no H7N9 virus mutation that could affect public health has been identified.
"There is no evidence of regular inter-human transmission, and the risk assessment of H7N9 epidemic outbreak is unchanged," said Shu Yuelong, director of the Chinese National Influenza Center (CNIC).
According to a plan for human H7N9 infection diagnosis and treatment issued on Sunday, the majority of human H7N9 infections are sporadic cases and there has been no evidence for consistent human-to-human infection, but limited, single human-to-human transmission cases cannot be be ruled out.