The last time China's birdflu epidemic dominated the ether, and internet, was in April, when news of numerous casualties led many to believe that the epidemic was on the verge of breaching all local containment measures. And then, suddenly, all media coverage of China's H7N9 story disappeared as if by Department of Truth (and propaganda) magic. Naturally, the quick popular response was to assume that all was again well since the government no longer made it a notable topic - just like the Japanese government did with Fukushima. However, as in the case of Fukushima, it turns out all may not have been well. As Japan's NHK reports, H7N9 bird flu strain is once again spreading in southern China, claiming the 148th victim of the vicious flu virus. Or perhaps instead of "once again" it was simply "constantly."
Provincial authorities in southern China are increasing measures against the spread of the H7N9 bird flu. They are warning that the chance of contracting the disease is rising.
Health officials of Guangdong Province said on Thursday that a 38-year-old man in Shenzhen came down with the H7N9 strain. The man is being treated at hospital and remains in critical condition.
This is the 148th case of human H7N9 infection in mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. The first case emerged in Shanghai in March.
Reports of the H7N9 infection entered a lull in the summer. But Guangdong officials say the 38-year-old man is the 4th human infection case over the past week. Hong Kong authorities also confirmed the H7N9 virus in 2 people who had visited the province this month.
Guangdong's government is increasing its counter-measures. It is sending teams of experts to inspect live poultry markets and medical institutions across the province.
Others aren't waiting for the diligent, honest and accurate Chinese government to do its job. Because as SCMP reports, in next door neighbor Hong Kong, sales of chicken have already plunged by 40% on just the several hushed bird flu stories alone.
Chicken was absent from many local dinner tables last night as Hongkongers celebrated winter solstice, with wet market vendors complaining of a drop in sales because of bird flu fears.
Trader Ma Ping-loon, a member of the Poultry Dealers and Workers Association, said business was down about 40 per cent from last year's festival. "We're badly affected by this. Very few people are buying chicken compared with last year. Sales have been slow all day," Ma said.
He added that the price for one catty (about 600 grams) of fresh chicken fell 30 per cent yesterday to about HK$45. A live-chicken vendor at the Java Road Municipal Services Building in North Point said sales of both local chickens and those imported from the mainland were down compared with last year, but the prices were about the same.
One shopper at the market said she would serve seafood instead of chicken this year. "I'm avoiding any form of contact with chicken, whether it's dead or alive," she said, adding that she had made the decision after news of the first death from the new strain of bird flu affecting humans, H10N8, in Jiangxi province.
Hopefully it is not seafood from the Fukushima region. As for the sources of this latest breakout:
Mainland health authorities last week confirmed that an elderly woman died earlier this month after contracting H10N8, another strain of bird flu that has crossed the species barrier.
The latest case is a 38-year-old migrant worker who lives and works in Nanwan Street, Longgang, near the market, who was in critical condition in hospital.
A second patient, a 39-year-old man from Dongguan, commuted to the district.
The pair follow Tri Mawarti, a domestic helper who on December 2 became the first person in Hong Kong diagnosed with the virus. She is believed to have handled a live chicken at a flat in Nanwan Street before falling ill.
Guangdong has confirmed six cases of H7N9 in humans since August. So far, there have been 143 confirmed cases on the mainland, in Taiwan and Hong Kong.
Meanwhile, public hospitals in Hong Kong have stepped up tests for bird flu. All patients with pneumonia and flu-like symptoms are required to be tested for bird flu, even if they have not come into contact with birds or poultry or travelled recently.
In other words, in the food heavy CPI-weighed country of China, as a result of tumbling demand for chickens and associated prices, the market may once again assume that there is deflation any minute just because the ultraviolet light special for chickens is on.
That, and of course the staff of YUM having to "explain" why its KFC China sales are once again about to crater, and why it is nothing to be concerned about.