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Yangtze Delta tourism affected by bird virus

Updated: 2013-04-15 07:00
By Wang Hongyi in Shanghai (China Daily)

As the Labor Day holiday on May 1 draws near, people who have booked tour packages to the Yangtze River Delta regions are becoming uneasy about an outbreak of H7N9 bird flu.

To date, no travel warning has been issued, but the daily update of H7N9 cases in the delta regions made a number of tour planners back down, which may hurt confidence in tourism in East China, especially Shanghai, where the first human case was reported and the flu is most serious.

By 4 pm Sunday, Shanghai had reported 24 H7N9 cases, nine of them fatal. Among the people infected was the husband of an H7N9 patient who had died. Health officials said there was insufficient evidence to determine that the man had caught the disease from his wife.

"I have already booked a tour for 1,500 yuan ($242) for the Labor Day holiday. The tour package covered Shanghai, Suzhou and Hangzhou. But the news said that the flu in that place was serious, so I became worried," said Zhang Yajun, 25, of Shijiazhuang, Hebei province.

"Because I worried the food might not be safe there, I decided to go to other places," Zhang said, adding she won't visit Shanghai this year.

Liu Yue, who works in Shanghai, also canceled a tour package. She had arranged for her parents to come for a few days to Shanghai from Sichuan province and then visit the West Lake, a tourist destination in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province.

"I got very concerned about my parents' health after I heard that most of the people infected are elderly. So I decided to cancel the tour," she said.

"There was a loss of money, but I think safety is more important."

On Sunday, Zhejiang reported another four H7N9 cases, bringing its total to 15 cases with two dead.

"In previous years, a large number of people booked East China tours, but this year, fewer people asked about them or signed up," said Ou Hongzhi, an employee at Jucheng Holiday Agency in Guangzhou, Guangdong province.

"In the past few days, people are paying more attention to bird flu, and many who planned to visit East China canceled their trips," Ou told Guangzhou Daily on April 10.

Zhang Wu'an, a spokesman for the aviation department of Shanghai Spring Tour Co, said air travel was only slightly affected by the bid flu outbreak.

Zhang said some individuals canceled, but no more than was normal.

"Some people asked about H7N9 bird flu, but most of them kept rational. In general, the influence on the tourism situation and aviation is not big," he told China Daily on Sunday.

"So far, no evidence shows the virus can be transmitted among people. It's hard to assess what will happen to the tourism and aviation markets in the future," he said.

An employee of Shanghai Jinzhong Intentional Tourism Co named Chen said: "So far, tour packages in Shanghai and neighboring areas are normal. The flu hasn't affected them."

Tourism in East China is stable, and there has been no obvious influence from the flu, said Hu Yao, an official at the Nanjing Tourism Commission in Jiangsu. That province had reported 16 H7N9 cases by Sunday.

The World Health Organization has not yet recommended people refrain from or trade in the areas affected by the flu. But Canada's Public Health Agency issued a health travel notice on April 7 suggesting that people who are traveling to China take precautions against H7N9 bird flu.

Zheng Jinran in Shijiazhuang contributed to this story.

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