Poultry purchases banned in China's military-controlled region

A week after a 52-year-old man was confirmed to have been infected with bird flu just days after his son died of the disease, poultry purchases were banned in the Nanjing Military Region.

"We have already had a meeting for all staff including those who have retired to notify us of the human bird flu case," said a man who answered the telephone at the region's administrative bureau. "We were also told not to purchase poultry products."

The interviewed man didn’t give his name or any other details – a usual practice in China in secretive military cases, the AP said. It is also a sign of high sensitivity of the issue.

The Ta Kung Pao, a Hong Kong newspaper backed by China's communist authorities, said this week the father was a retired regiment commander of the Nanjing Military Region, a critical division that covers the provinces of Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Anhui, Fujian, and Jiangxi.

It also faces Taiwan, China's rival, and is the front-line launching point for an assault on the island.

The man, whose surname is Lu, and his family are said to have been infected when eating a dish called "Beggar's Chicken," – a bird baked in lotus leaves.

Earlier this week, Chinese health officials said they were investigating the case of the 24-year-old son, the country's 17th fatality from bird flu.

He died Dec. 2 and his father started showing symptoms a day later and was confirmed to have the disease, health officials have said.

The way of the infection remains unclear. Human-to-human transmission was possible, but both men could have fall ill after contacting the same or different sources. None of the possibilities have been ruled out, both Chinese and World Health Organization officials have said.

Hans Troedsson, the WHO's representative in China, said Monday the father was recovering after being treated with the antiviral medicine Tamiflu at the onset of symptoms.

Eighty-two other people who had contact with the father and son were being monitored for symptoms.

China ’s Health Minister didn’t give any comments on the situation.

No bird flu outbreak had been discovered in the province, the Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Bureau in Jiangsu province said last week.

Out of the 27 human cases reported in China so far, only one had been forewarned by a poultry outbreak in the vicinity, WHO has said, an indication the country needs to improve its surveillance systems.

If the virus is not controlled it could mutate into a form that will easily pass between people, killing millions, scientists warn.

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