Travellers heading to China are warned to avoid traditional ‘wet markets’

  • ‘Wet’ markets contain hundreds of stalls that sell both dead and live animals
  • They can often appeal to tourists who want to see the ‘real’ side to the country 
  • However, Public Health England today issued an alert against visiting them 
  • 2 strains of avian flu, H5N6 and H7N4, are currently circulating the country

Thousands of travellers to China have today been told avoid traditional markets amid fears of an outbreak of bird flu spreading to the UK.

‘Wet’ markets, which contain hundreds of stalls that sell dead and live animals, can appeal to tourists who want to see the ‘real’ side of the country.

However, in an alert issued today, travellers have been warned against visiting the traditional markets to lower their risk of catching bird flu.

Two strains of avian flu, H5N6 and H7N4, are currently circulating the Asian country, according to the Public Health England report. 

Government figures show nearly 600,000 Britons make the journey, which can take upwards of 11 hours, to visit China every year.

China is prone to outbreaks of the avian flu virus among humans because people buy and sell live poultry in the market (pictured, a worker unloads ducks from a truck in a market in Hefei)

Officials already warn over the potential dangers of smog, freak weather, regional tension and the threat of terrorism in the country.

However, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office – which offers travel advice for every country – make no mention of the risks of bird flu.

The warning over bird flu have been made by the National Travel Health Network and Centre, a branch set up by the Department of Health in 2002.

In a report published by PHE, the agency issued a list of nine instructions for Brits heading to China in the coming weeks:


Also known as avian influenza, bird flu is an infectious disease of birds caused by a variant of the standard influenza A virus. 

Bird flu is unique in that it can be transmitted directly from birds to humans. 

There are 15 different strains of the virus. It is the H5N1 strain which is infecting humans and causing high death rates. 

Humans can catch bird flu directly through close contact with live infected birds and those who work with infected chickens are most at risk. 

  • avoid close or direct contact with live poultry
  • avoid visiting live bird and animal markets (including ‘wet’ markets) and poultry farms
  • avoid contact with surfaces contaminated with animal faeces
  • avoid untreated bird feathers and other animal and bird waste
  • do not eat or handle undercooked or raw poultry, egg or duck dishes
  • do not pick up or touch dead or dying birds
  • do not attempt to bring any poultry products back to the UK
  • maintain good personal hygiene with regular hand washing with soap
  • use alcohol-based hand rubs

PHE published the guidance on H7N4 today, following the news of a 68-year-old woman catching the bug earlier this year. 

Officials also updated their document on H5N6 as they announced there are two different strains of bird flu circulating currently.

However, PHE said the outbreak of the bird flu strain in China and South East Asia have been known to strike humans – unlike the one in Europe.

In both reports, the risk of infection of was considered ‘low’ but urged doctors to urgently arrange tests if they suspect their patient has it.

It comes amid repeated warnings of a killer flu strain that could kill millions, with many concerned the next will stem from an animal and mutate. 

This process is what sparked the Swine flu pandemic of 2009 – which killed nearly 300,000 people across the world after striking around 60 countries.