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Patient Contracts H5N6 AI in China—Lessons for the U.S.?


Xinhua, the official news agency of China, reported on a case of H5N6 avian influenza in a patient who visited a Ningyuan live bird market before onset of clinical signs resulting in hospitalization.  Local live poultry trading was suspended in Ningyuan County in Hunan Province.  Eight large urban farmers’ markets together with 44 farmers’ markets in small towns.  in the county have been depopulated and are undergoing cleaning before reopening.


This pattern of responding to outbreaks of avian influenza has characterized the live-bird marketing system in China for two decades. When human cases are identified markets are closed, stock is depleted followed by “disinfection”. With the building of consumer and political pressure markets are reopened and the cycle begins again. China will only be free of avian influenza among consumers when a decision is made to eliminate the sale of live birds in urban areas. The transmission of avian strains of influenza to humans requires mutations and the marketing system therefore has the potential to generate a pandemic strain.


By the same token why does the U.S. tolerate live bird markets in our cities? Why are state and local officials providing services and expending resources on monitoring facilities patronized by ethnic groups? Why do we support a system that exposes our domestic commercial flocks to the risk of avain influenza and place in jeopardy our chicken exports representing 16 percent of RTC output?