Just in time for Christmas, bird flu has returned to China.
Two people in Anhui have died from H7N9 bird flu and three more cases have been reported this month in the province, local health officials said in a statement.
Closer to home, Shanghai health authorities announced on Wednesday that a man visiting from neighboring Jiangsu province was being treated at a local hospital after being diagnosed with the virus.
Adding in one more reported case in Xiamen, that means that so far this month there has been at least seven H7N9 infections in mainland China this month. That’s in addition to one infection in Hong Kong, and another in Macau, the first the former Portuguese colony has experienced since returning to Chinese rule in 1999.
According to Reuters, China’s health ministry says that it is taking this latest outbreak of the deadly virus very seriously, but has also urged caution.
“Currently experts’ judgment is that it is a small number of individuals, but if we discover that it’s on a large scale, it would be a different (response),” Mao Qunan, a spokesman for the ministry, told reporters in Beijing.
Authorities in Anhui have shut down some livestock markets and stepped up efforts to prevent the virus from spreading. Fortunately, this strain of bird flu does seem to transmit easily from person to person, and sustained human-to-human infection has not been reported, according to the World Health Organization.
The last major bird flu outbreak hit mainland China from late 2013 to early 2014, causing widespread panic, killing 36 people and resulting in more than $6 billion in economic losses for China’s agricultural sector as many citizens swore off all poultry, despite reassurances from brave local officials.
In early 2015, H7N9 bird flu returned again, infecting over 100 people in mainland China by mid-February.
Well, that’s something else to avoid eating this Christmas.