Scientists and economists say the H7N9 bird flu outbreak in China has cost that country’s poultry industry $6.5 billion, as consumers shun chicken and health officials make gains in controlling the deadly virus.
The cost data, provided by China’s agriculture ministry, was reported Tuesday at the World Health Assembly in Geneva.
At the conference, United Nations experts warned health authorities worldwide to be on the lookout for the virus, which is known to have infected 130 people in China since first appearing in March. Chinese authorities say 36 of the victims have died.
A top World Health Organization official, Keiji Fukuda, told the gathering the immediate outbreak has been controlled, but it is unlikely the virus has simply disappeared. He repeated findings showing the virus in its present form crossed from birds to humans at live markets in China where chickens and other poultry are slaughtered and sold.
Authorities say there is no evidence of person-to-person transmission in the outbreak.
China’s official Xinhua news agency said emergency virus control procedures were lifted last week in eastern provinces and major cities, including Shanghai, Jiangsu and Shandong, where most of the infections occurred.