In China, consumers seem to shrug off deadly bird flu outbreak
By Adam Jourdan | SHANGHAI
Four years ago, a bird flu outbreak in China killed at least three dozen people, triggered mass poultry culling, put masks on millions of Chinese faces and hammered shares in fast food and travel companies.
This winter, more than 100 people have died, but few birds have been slaughtered, there are few masks on the streets and little sign of any consumer reaction, let alone the panic seen in 2013.
The number of posts mentioning "bird flu" or "H7N9" on China's popular Sina Weibo microblog - a useful proxy for gauging consumer interest or concern - peaked at just over 40,000 on Wednesday after the health ministry said as many as 79 people died from H7N9 bird flu in January alone. (For a graphic on bird flu in China click tmsnrt.rs/2lqwuGw)
At the peak of the 2013 outbreak, daily posts topped 850,000.
"Everyone's just used to it now," said Yuan Haojie, 24, a real estate worker in Shanghai. "Every year we seem to have some sort of bird flu outbreak, but it never seems to affect anyone I know. Gradually you stop worrying about it."
Many consumers and fast food chain workers Reuters spoke to were unaware of the severity of this season's outbreak.
"Is this one of those online rumors?" asked the duty manager at one KFC outlet in the northern mining city of Shuangyashan...