With the new threat of bird flu looming measures are being taking all over the world to try to prevent a pandemic before it even happens. Fears that a similar bird flu outbreak to the H1N1 SARS virus that happened in 2002 - 2003, killed hundreds around the world and sickened thousands, could happen again.

In an attempt to prevent the potentially pandemic H7N9 virus from infecting countless people and spreading, Chinese authorities are culling 20,536 birds used for commercial purposes and have closed markets in key regions of China including the Huhuai market in Shanghai. This was done shortly after the virus was detected in pigeons on sale in the market. Other markets in the city that sell live birds will be closed on Saturday.

There have been 11 people confirmed infected with this particular influenza strain, H7N9, in eastern China and four of the infected that have died were in Shanghai with a fifth additional person dying as well. All people who had come in contact with infected persons are being monitored for illness.

There is no vaccine presently available for this particular sub-strain of influenza virus, but Chinese authorities say that they have enough Tamiflu anti-viral medication to treat a large number of infected people if need be. The World Health organization has stated that the virus is susceptible to two neuraminidase inhibitors, oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir.

There is no evidence that the virus is contagious and can be transmitted from person to person.

Learning lessons because it was hard hit during the SARS outbreak the Hong Kong Centre for Health Protection said "We will heighten our vigilance and continue to maintain stringent port health measures in connection with this development."

As a precaution Vietnam has banned the importation of poultry from China because of the outbreak.

The White House has said that they are monitoring the outbreak and have put the resources of the Centers for Disease control and prevention at the disposal of the Chinese Ministry of health. The CDC has announced that it is developing a candidate vaccine just in case the virus turns into a pandemic.

Interestingly, Laurie Garrett, who is a Pulitzer prize winning science writer, published a piece in Foreign Policy indicating that the recent findings of massive numbers of dead pigs that were thrown in a river on the outskirts of Shanghai (over 20,000 and counting) and countless dead ducks and swans along the shores of the Nanhe river in southwestern China may have been infected by the same H7N9 virus. She predicts that this may the foretelling of a pandemic to come