The Chinese health ministry on Saturday reported two more people had contracted the H7N9 bird flu virus, bringing the number of cases in eastern China to 18, including six deaths.
The announcement came after Shanghai authorities slaughtered thousands of birds at local markets and began shutting down all wholesale poultry centers in an effort to combat the new virus strain.
Over 20,000 birds were killed at a live bird-trading zone in Shanghai on Friday, wrote CNN, including chickens, ducks, geese and pigeons. Every live poultry market in the city was shut on Saturday, Reuters reported.
The Associated Press wrote health officials believe people are contracting the virus "through direct contact with infected fowl."
"There’s no evidence the virus is spreading easily between people," the AP said.
Vendors complained about killing the birds, wrote the Wall Street Journal, although the Shanghai Agricultural Commission announced farmers would be given 50 percent of the market price of the birds in exchange for carrying out the cull.
"In the past usually you would see chickens dying before any infections occurred in humans, but this time we've seen that many species of poultry actually have no apparent problems, so that makes it difficult because you lose this natural warning sign," said infectious disease expert David Hui to CBC.
The bird flu virus death toll continues to rise, with the 5th death announced on Thursday, and the 6th on Friday. The ages of the victims – some of whom have recovered – range from 4 to 83.
The US consulate in China reassured citizens both in China and abroad, notes the WSJ, and has not called for any travel restrictions.
"At this point the risk for international disease spread is considered low...."The latest advisory from the World Health Organization as of April 4 is that no travel or trade restrictions with China should be applied based on the current information."