China detects bird flu outbreak near Hubei province

China has detected an outbreak of bird flu near the epicentre of the deadly coronavirus.

The bird flu outbreak was reported Saturday in Hunan, which borders the province of Hubei where the coronavirus broke out in December.

“The outbreak occurred in a farm in the Shuangqing district of Shaoyang city,” officials from China’s Ministry of Agriculture said. “The farm has 7850 chickens, and 4500 of the chickens have died from the contagion.”

The fatal illness, known as H5N1 virus, causes “a highly infectious, severe respiratory disease in birds,” according to the World Health Organisation.

The Chinese government said it culled 17,828 chickens as a result of the H5N1 outbreak, according to Reuters.

While bird flu is not easily transmissible among people, the World Health Organisation has called on countries to be on guard because the virus can mutate into a transmissible form, The New York Times reported.

Bird flu is highly deadly to humans who contract it, with a mortality rate of 60 per cent in cases over the past 15 years.

This is much more deadly than SARS, which had a 10 per cent mortality rate, and the novel coronavirus, which has had a 2 per cent mortality rate so far.

The coronavirus has killed at least 305 people and infected more than 14,300 globally as it continues spreading beyond China.

The virus has now been confirmed in at least 25 countries and territories since it was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December, including 12 cases in Australia.

The Chinese government has been criticised for putting secrecy and order ahead of openly confronting the coronavirus, which allowed it to spread globally.

A Times analysis points to decisions that delayed a concerted public offensive between the appearance of the first symptoms in early December and the government’s decision to lock down the entire city seven weeks later.

Over that period, authorities silenced medical officials, played down the dangers to the public — leaving then unaware they should protect themselves or avoid travel — and refused to broadly curb the wildlife trade.

Even as the number of infections rose rapidly, officials repeatedly said there had likely been no more infections.

The Australian government imposed tough new restrictions on arrivals from China overnight, leaving thousands of passengers scheduled to arrive here overnight unable to travel.

The restrictions, recommended by Australia’s chief medical officers in response to the coronavirus outbreak, deny entry to Australia for people who have left or transited through mainland China from February 1.

Exceptions are being made for Australian citizens, permanent residents and their immediate families, as well as aircrews who have been using appropriate personal protective equipment.

There are believed to be around 600 Australian citizens and permanent residents stuck in Wuhan.

Over the weekend, the Philippines reported its first coronavirus fatality, marking the first death from the virus from outside mainland China.

The victim, who died Saturday, was a 44-year-old Chinese man who flew in from Wuhan in January.

The man and his wife were being treated in isolation units at a Manila hospital.

Hubei Vice Governor Xiao Juhua told a news conference the virus outbreak was still “severe and complicated”.

Beijing is facing mounting isolation as countries introduce travel restrictions, airlines suspend flights and governments evacuate their citizens, risking worsening a slowdown in the world’s second-largest economy.

China’s central bank said it would inject a hefty 1.2 trillion yuan ($A258 billion) worth of liquidity into the markets via reverse repurchase operations on Monday, as the country prepares to reopen its stock markets after an extended Lunar New Year holiday.

The government also said it will help firms that produce vital goods resume work as soon as possible, according to state media.

Authorities have effectively quarantined Wuhan, sealing off roads and shutting down public transport.

The city – where the virus is thought to have emerged late last year in a market illegally trading wildlife – was about to open two new hospitals for virus patients, state broadcaster CCTV and Xinhua news agency reported. One of the facilities was built in eight days, they added.

The Chinese data on the numbers of infections and deaths suggests the new coronavirus is less deadly than the 2002-03 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

That epidemic killed nearly 800 people of the some 8000 it infected, although such numbers can evolve rapidly.

— with Reuters

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