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Govt targets home-grown birds

(Global Times)

16:26, April 09, 2013

A staff member from a neighborhood committee helps disinfect a chicken coop in Jinshan district Monday. The Shanghai Municipal Health Promotion Committee has asked households to properly "deal with" poultry and other livestock birds being raised in reside. (GT/ Photo)

Shanghai's public health authority has advised residents who keep chickens, pigeons or other birds as livestock to "deal with" the animals as a precaution to prevent the H7N9 bird flu virus from spreading, local media reported Monday.

The Shanghai Municipal Health Promotion Committee planned to send volunteers to find households that keep birds as livestock and persuade them to deal with the birds properly, said a committee press officer surnamed Gu.

"We found six families keeping livestock, and have already had them kill the birds," said a staff member surnamed Ye from a neighborhood committee in Minhang district.

The neighborhood committee started Saturday looking for families keeping birds in their residential community, Ye said.

Several households had been keeping poultry in the community's green spaces. "These didn't just include chickens, but ducks, geese and pigeons that weren't raised for racing," she told the Global Times.

Racing pigeons are exempt from the measure, Ye said.

The health promotion committee's vice director, Li Zhongyang, advised residents that they can report neighbors who keep such livestock to their neighborhood committees, according to a report in the Shanghai Morning Post. Residents can also call the 12320 hotline to learn how to properly dispose of the birds.

The authority would turn to executive government agencies to dispose of the birds if families refuse the suggestion, Gu told the Global Times.

At least one city resident has gone beyond the official suggestion and gotten rid of her pet birds. Chen Xi told the Global Times that she recently set her three parrots free because she feared they might contract the virus and pass it on to her baby.

It isn't necessary for residents to get rid of their pet birds, said Tao Lina, a public health expert from the Shanghai Municipal Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

"The H7N9 virus has not yet been found in pet birds," he told the Global Times. "Pet birds that are kept in cages indoors have a low chance of coming in contact with wild birds, so there is a low risk that they will contract the virus."

A leading university, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, caught criticism after it recently cleared the bird nests on campus and quarantined the swans and peacocks that live around the campus lake, according to the report. Students and faculty accused the school of overreacting.

However, when it comes to birds that are kept for food, Tao said it was necessary for households to kill their livestock to reduce the chance that the bird flu will spread.

The Shanghai Agriculture Committee announced Sunday evening that about 100,000 such birds had been slaughtered in the city as of Saturday evening.

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