Two men and one woman from Chengdu have been detained by police for “causing concern and worry” about H7N9, the tenacious bird flu virus, according to the official Chengdu police department website.
According to the Chengdu police’s Weibo, the three were arrested for discussing on WeChat how bird flu has been killing many people in Chengdu. These posts were picked up by netizens and began to spread quickly, “arousing panic in the public” (according to Chengdu police). These arrests are part of Chinese authorities’ unending attempts to crack down on “spreading rumors” in the hopes of preserving social stability.
Despite what these three had discussed on WeChat, there are still no official reports of H7N9 in Sichuan Province this year.
The most recent reports of H7N9 in China came on Wednesday with the death of a 75-year-old man from the Panyu district of Guangzhou. The man died on March 1st, and his infection was confirmed a few days later. His death, along with the reported infections of three others, raises the unofficial H7N9 toll to 384 cases and 119 deaths: This is comprised of 284 cases in the second wave, which began in October, and 136 cases in the first wave, spanning approximately from March to June 2013.
A joint study released by the WHO last May showed that poultry farms are the most likely cause of these recent outbreaks. The virus (or, as higher-ups in the industry would prefer to call it, “the flu”) has reportedly cost the poultry industry 20 billion yuan.
China doesn’t exactly have the best track record when it comes to dealing with outbreaks similar to H7N9: As those of us may remember, the CCP was heavily criticized for its attempts to conceal the SARS outbreak in 2002.
By Alex Stevens