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Flu reveals dangers of 'developed areas'


08:32, April 07, 2013

The growing number of deaths caused by the H7N9 bird flu virus has prompted local governments, including Beijing, to announce emergency status.

So far, experts believe the bird flu has not developed into a crisis, as no evidence has shown the virus can spread through human-to-human contact. People in cities where H7N9 cases were reported are not panicking.

The local governments have responded quickly this time and have shown confidence in their readiness and resources to fight the possible outbreak of a major disease. Medical authorities believe an epidemic on the scale of SARS, which killed hundreds in China a decade ago, is not likely to repeat with H7N9 this time.

The country has learned the lesson and improved its capability to fight such diseases.

However, we still need to ask why the developed areas in the Yangtze River Delta and Pearl River Delta have become the origins of these new viruses. Normally, diseases are likely to break out in poor areas. Why is it the other way around in China?

In China's southern and eastern coastal areas, agriculture, especially animal husbandry, has become more intense and populations more dense. There is greater chance of contact between humans and animals and subsequent diseases. Local authorities have to develop disease prevention and control methods to match this situation, but this is a weak spot in the country's overall development.

China has focused on growth in the past few decades, which was what a then-poor nation saw as "development." In the past few years, people have been paying more attention to health, environmental protection and social justice. But providing balanced development is far more difficult than the pursuit of single-minded economic growth in the past.

It is a great achievement for China to have established an advanced emergency response system after several tests in preventing the large-scale spread of diseases. But the nation has to move ahead and reduce the chance of new kinds of diseases from breaking out.

Higher standards in animal farming, food processing and consumption should be established and enforced from urban to rural areas. Even some traditional ways of cooking and eating foods need to be reassessed due to their health risks.

The over 10,000 dead pigs recently found floating in the Huangpu River near Shanghai have shown that the development in Yangtze River Delta is still rudimentary. It will take a much longer time for the country's coastal areas to become real developed societies.

China has to invest more in the safety of agricultural products.

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