KFC sales in China will likely plummet this week after a handful of major cities halted live poultry sales for a three-month period amid bird flu fears.
The chicken embargo comes just as the country prepares to ring in its New Year on Friday, a holiday where Yum Brands' KFC usually sees an uptick in sales.
"The Chinese New Year is a seasonally strong period for our business," Pat Grismer, Yum Brands chief financial officer, has said in previous interviews.
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But after an outbreak of the H7N9 avian influenza virus sickened 96 people in China last year and killed 19, it's likely customers will want to stay away from the fast-food fried chicken chain, BusinessWeek.com reported
. KFC has more than 4,400 locations in China.
Hong Kong's government also ordered the live poultry market to close for a period of 21 days, the Xinhua News Agency reported Tuesday, citing the Chinese Center for Disease Control & Prevention.
Though bird flu usually only spreads to humans who have had direct or close contact with infected poultry, lab experiments have shown that the H7N9 strain can also spread from person to person, according to Bloomberg
. And while it's not as contagious as the seasonal flu virus, tests have shown that the bird flu is undergoing small mutations in order to reproduce.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the H7N9 bird flu's
symptoms generally start with a high fever and cough. Many cases then progress to very serious illness, including severe pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), septic shock, and multi-organ failure leading to death.
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