More cases of human infections of the H7N9 bird flu have been reported in Beijing and Henan Province, putting more pressure on those attempting to contain the virus.
The extent to which the H7N9 virus damages human health varies from person to person. The prevention system has been implemented and is playing its role. The virus hasn't caused a huge public panic, but it has been a heavy blow to the poultry industry and the interests of a large number of Chinese farmers. Economic losses amounted to 10 billion yuan ($1.62 billion) within a week of the H7N9 outbreak.
Wherever the virus is found, all poultry within a certain area must be killed. This is a necessary step to prevent the further spread of the virus. It will incur economic losses, but the larger losses come from the declining consumption of poultry which in turn leads to price declines. Many people will be affected by this.
A lot of the impact comes from our excessive anxiety over the H7N9 virus. Although it has been proved that this virus is fatal, the medical field believes that it is safe to eat poultry meat that has been processed at a high temperature. The country's virus control and quarantine measures are being carried out with the strictest standards. Under such circumstances, many are still afraid to eat poultry, reflecting a sign of public anxiety.
It's an understandable reaction for people to eat little or no poultry during a bird flu situation. But when many people all do this, it fractures industry chains. It's also unfair to farmers. Their economic interests have been sacrificed before society was carefully able to balance the need for virus prevention with the interests of farmers.
Because production and consumption chains are now closely linked, the public's irrational behavior toward the poultry industry will eventually do harm to ourselves. As the current scale of the bird flu situation has already dealt a heavy blow to the poultry industry, it means the economic damage to the industry may further increase. This would definitely not be good news for Chinese consumers.
We fully support efforts to control the bird flu with the most determined attitude and the strictest means. But we also believe the public should somewhat restrain their anxieties to avoid this incident becoming a disaster for the whole poultry industry.
The media should push for transparency when it comes to efforts to prevent the spread of bird flu. Meanwhile, it's important for the media to ease public confusion. Prevention work should be carried out on a scientific basis rather than knee-jerk reactions. Chinese society must adapt mechanisms to respond to the situation, and demonstrate a collective spirit beyond individualism.