By Shannon Najmabadi
Previously found only in eastern parts of China, the H7N9 avian flu virus has officially spread to Beijing, with the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention confirming the city’s first case early on Saturday.
A seven-year-old girl, whose parents work in live poultry trading, was admitted to the Beijing Ditan Hospital on Thursday after she developed flu-like symptoms, including a fever, cough and headache. Her fever has lessened and she is in a stable condition, local health officials confirmed.
Two people who have been in close contact with the child have not shown flu-like symptoms.
This new case brings the total number of H7N9 infections in China to 44, with 43 of those cases occurring in eastern parts of the country. So far, this strain of avian flu has resulted in 11 deaths.
This infection marks the geographic spread of the virus out of eastern China and has prompted authorities to shut down live poultry markets in Beijing and order the slaughter or caging of some domestically raised birds. Additionally, the Beijing Drug Administration has been ordered to stock up on medication, including enough Tamiflu for 2 million people.
While Beijing and other effected cities have been responding to infections and taking precautions, Bloomberg notes that the spread of the virus may have a negative effect on certain industries:
The spread of the virus may negatively affect insurance, airlines, consumer staples and retailing, Hong Kong-based Citigroup Inc. analysts Shen Minggao and Ben Wei wrote in an April 8 report. It could also spur food-price inflation if supplies of poultry are cut, they said.
Louisville, Kentucky-based Yum! Brands Inc. (YUM), said April 10 that publicity associated with bird flu has had a “significant, negative impact” on sales at its KFC dining chain in China “within the past week.” KFC offers chicken products including sandwiches, drumsticks and wings.
The bird-flu outbreak has hurt farmers “tremendously” because it’s curbing demand for chicken in eastern regions, Liu Yonghao, chairman of New Hope Liuhe Co., China’s biggest poultry supplier, said April 9.
Any negative impact from an epidemic “won’t last too long and ensuing pent-up demand could be strong, so there is no need for panic in the financial markets,” Lu Ting, chief Greater China economist at Bank of America Corp. in Hong Kong, wrote in an April 5 note.