While everyone is fascinated by the unraveling slow-motion North Korean theatrical trainwreck, which is nothing but a desperate attempt by a broke "leader" to get paid some "nuisance" cash by the west just so he goes away, the real Asian story has been the latest outbreak of birdflu in China which has not only claimed six lives already (and many more coming), but is starting to have major spillover effects on the broader economy, such as mass slaughter of poultry at local markets - a move which will have certain inflationary effects to an economy already on the cusp of losing the war with the G-7's hot money.
A sixth person has died of H7N9 bird flu in China, state media said on Friday, after authorities slaughtered poultry in a mass cull at a Shanghai market where the virus has been detected.
The latest fatality was a 64-year-old farmer who died in Huzhou, in the eastern province of Zhejiang, local officials said according to the state Xinhua news agency.
He is thought to be among 14 previously confirmed human cases of H7N9, and is the second person from Zhejiang to die from the strain, with the other four fatalities in Shanghai, China’s commercial hub.
In Taiwan, health authorities were closely monitoring two people who had experienced fever and had recently arrived in Taiwan from the Chinese mainland, Central News Agency reported on Friday.
The two patients, a mainlander who came from Jiangsu and a Taiwan resident arrived from Shanghai, underwent tests for the H7N9 virus on Thursday, the news agency quoted the disease control centre official as saying.
The official said they would have the test results ready as early as Friday afternoon, the report said.
Never late to the scene, the WHO has arrived, and is doing it best Kevin Bacon-in-Animal House impression:
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has played down fears over the H7N9 strain, saying there was no evidence of human-to-human transmission, but that it was crucial to find out how the virus infects humans.
Like the H5N1 variant which typically spreads from birds to humans through direct contact, experts fear such viruses could mutate into a form easily transmissible between humans, with the potential to trigger a pandemic.
The first two deaths from the virus, which had not been seen before in humans, occurred in February but were not reported by authorities until late March. Officials said the delay in announcing the results was because it took time to determine the cause of the illness.
The state-run China Daily on Friday quoted the ministry of health in Beijing as pledging “open and transparent exchanges with the WHO and other countries and regions”.
Alas this is cold comfort to various chickens that were brutally massacred overnight - the first of many:
In Shanghai, the poultry cull was carried out at the Huhuai market in a western suburb of Shanghai following the discovery of the virus in pigeon samples, Xinhua reported.
Images posted on the Sina Weibo microblog by a local television reporter showed men in protective clothing and facemasks entering the market during the night, and dozens of empty birdcages stacked in the middle of the market.
On Friday morning, the entrance to the poultry section was concealed with wooden boards and sealed off with plastic tape, with a police car parked nearby and white disinfectant powder sprinkled in the street.
Two staff members at the market said the slaughter was completed overnight, but one of them added: “Of course, I’m worried.”
As he should be: the virus is rapidly spreading.
Experts are concerned that the virus appears to have spread across a wide geographical area, with people sickened not only in Shanghai, but also the nearby provinces of Zhejiang, Jiangsu and Anhui.
“I am cautiously worried,” virologist John Oxford of the Queen Mary University of London said.
“If there were four cases in Shanghai, I would be much less concerned, but because it is so geographically widespread I think it is trying to tell us something.” State broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) reported on Friday that health ministry officials were meeting with agricultural personnel to draw up an action plan aimed at “preventing the spreading of the disease”.
For those concerned, here is what "it may be trying to tell us" - an interactive map of all the most recently reported casualties and victims of the latest outbreak of H7N9.