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Study Finds Closing Live Poultry Farms is Effective in Preventing Human Bird Flu Cases

Update Date: Oct 31, 2013 03:35 PM EDT

Even though the bird flu in China has dwindled down, based on previous trends, researchers are aware that the threat might arise once more during the winter. Before the winter bird flu season hits, Chinese researchers studied the current methods that they use to control the spread of the avian flu. Based on their findings, the researchers stated that closing down live poultry markets is a highly effective method.

For this study, the researchers focused on this past spring's outbreak of H7N9 in Southern China. Fortunately, the flu was relatively mild and only affected 134 cases with 45 of them ending up being fatal. With two new cases in China that has come up this month, the researchers suggest that shutdowns should be considered.

Despite the effectiveness of shutting down live poultry markets, experts have commented that this method is not ideal. A shutdown would mean that small farmers would no longer be able to supply the demand for live chickens. Since they cannot afford refrigerated slaughterhouses or trucks, losing a lot of healthy chickens could jeopardize the economy. Furthermore, even places where refrigeration is an option, due to culture and customs, a lot of markets will offer live chickens so that customers can pick their poultry based on color, age and overall appearance.

The most recent outbreak cost the economy an estimated $1.6 billion. All of the closed markets have since been reopened. Live poultry markets tend to be dirty and over crowded. This environment contributes greatly to how fast chickens become infected and then infect humans. Despite how filthily conditions may be, some experts have praised Chinese farmers on how quickly they comply with laws that force them to shutdown temporarily. Oftentimes, in other countries, such as Vietnam and Egypt, farmers will ignore orders to close, jeopardizing people's health even more.

Whether or not live poultry farms will be shut down during the winter flu season will depend greatly on the severity of the outbreak. The study was published in The Lancet

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