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I am currently in Beijing and will be catching a train to Shanghai in about 12 hours.

Here in Beijing the news about the N7H9 deaths are everywhere and some people advice me to try to avoid Shanghai if I can, others tell me just not to eat chicken and others tell me that its "just news".

It is possible, but not desirable, for me to avoid Shanghai as I am here just visiting, but I would like to know what is the experience of other travelers dealing with trips to potentially infectious areas like Shanghai right now.

Knowing that it is possible that I will need to avoid places with many people like the subway, bus, museums, etc, is it worth it to go there?

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News about flu focus on how many have died, not on how many have survived, because data on latter case is not reliably available. –  mouviciel Apr 5 '13 at 15:19
    
I don't feel that this is a relevant question for TravelExchange. The N7H9 deaths are serious, however it will pass in the near future. I would not travel to Shanghai today, however I probably would have no concern in even a few weeks. –  Andrew Apr 6 '13 at 2:55
    
Well the fact that according to you it will "pass in the near future" doesn't make it less relevant for people like me traveling to Shanghai and wanting to learn from other experienced travelers wich had experienced similar situations in other parts of the world what to do in cases like this. –  JordanBelf Apr 6 '13 at 3:27
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One possible consideration is the extra hassle you might have when leaving somewhere with a health scare like this. So far it's just bird > human as far as I'm aware, so probably no big deal. If there were cases with human > human transmission then you might have some extra difficulty on departure. –  daamsie Apr 6 '13 at 12:39
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The WHO (World Health Organization) says "The number of cases identified in China is very low. WHO does not advise the application of any travel measures with respect to visitors to China nor to persons leaving China." who.int/influenza/human_animal_interface/faq_H7N9/en/index.html –  Andrew Apr 6 '13 at 14:07

3 Answers 3

up vote 5 down vote accepted

What you have to know about bird flu is that it is first of all a transmission issue between live birds to humans, and then from those humans to others. So the people affected in the first line are the ones who go to open markets or deal with livestock. If you need to go to such markets or deal with live poultry, you might want to take a distance from this activity - in general, not only now. Bird flu has been an issue in Asia now since some years and you would be in a different type of risk all around, no matter of a specific current threat or not.

The main concern that people have right now in China is that the numbers reported by the government might be under reported. Some say by a factor of 10x. What is the true number is of course anybody's guess. The experience from the SARS epidemic showed that China likes to keep anything that could cause a panic on a smaller flame.

The risk for the general public as opposed to tourists however is much higher since they go daily to live markets and buy food there. Tourists on the other hand are in very limited exposure since there is quite a path to make from the person selling the chicken, over the person buying it, through the cooks, the servers until you eat it at a restaurant. Keep in mind that at this point any disease is transmitted only through people, not through the chicken you eat anymore. General flu and other diseases are just as easily transmitted as bird flu. How often do you get a flu? Well, that risk is the same in the whole world just as in China.

So as long as you are staying clear of the markets, you are fine. Even if the current infection rate is under-reported by a factor of 10x, the chances that you are in contact with a virus in Shanghai through a restaurant is just about the same as anywhere else in China, and only remotely higher anywhere else in the world.

And, by the way, the current status is that Tamiflu seems to be a working remedy for N7H9, so even if you might contract something against all odds, this one does not seem the scary killer virus the press would like it to be to push up their sales figures.

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One would always have to take news with the grain of salt they are in the business of selling themselves and keeping you glued to the screen/radio/computer.

According to WHO there is no ongoing evidence of human to human transmission so one would need to take caution as far as handling the birds and as far as general hygiene is concerned but as of today there is no real cause for alarm.

So I wouldn't avoid Shanghai just try to stay away from "street meat" and other areas with questionable practices of slaughtering birds and other animals.

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Thanks, for what I read here in the news in China (not very reliable though) I have the same information but I decided to take a defensive decision and fly to Hong Kong because I still have 8 moths to go traveling and I just think the whole experience of being in a city with a somehow paranoid mind was not going to be a pleasant stay anyway... maybe it will be another time for me in Shanghai. –  JordanBelf Apr 6 '13 at 2:44

Anything on this is opinion.
Here's mine.

As a relatively frequent China traveller I would happily enough go to Shanghai to 'see the sights' at present. I am seen as somewhat of a risk taker by friends BUT in fact I am just an engineer and so try to base my actions on informed input and not hype. I'd accept that there was a small chance of increased danger and a very very very very small enhanced chance of vast danger. See below. I'd carry alcohol hand sanitiser (as I always do) and use where it seemed good, and take more than average care of crowd and food situations BUT I'd accept crowded locations as required.

Pigeon is the current main target AFAIK - not chicken. That may suggest some suitable areas for more care in city areas.

PLUS: The following unlikely sounding story is true :-). I have a US contact who was 20 years with the CIA and who maintains contacts for business purposes (non nefarious) with large numbers of people in government, diplomatic, international aid circles etc. I spoke to him about 3 hours ago by Skype. He raised N7H9, said that people had unspecified concerns that it may be much more serious than was being advised and that it was potentially far worse than prior "bird flu" scares. I am sure of my source but would tend to have low confidence in news such as that which 'filters through the network'. I would be surprised if it did in fact prove to be vastly worse than prior incidents. But, if you do manage to die of it, please do remember afterwards that you were warned :-).

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