With only 12 days left before the opening of Auto Shanghai 2013, the number of human infection cases of the H7N9 bird flu has risen to 24, including 7 deaths, all found in Shanghai and nearby regions. So have fears among the public, casting shadow on this year’s most important marketing event in the Chinese auto world.
Despite official assurance that there is no evidence for inter-human transmission of the newly identified, deadly virus, many who planned to attend the event, including both ordinary car fans and journalists, are considering staying away, knowing that tens of thousands of birds have been culled, live poultry markets closed, pigeons removed from public squares and parks, and chicken pulled off school food menus. The scenes remind many of the 2003 outbreak. Caused by a different, H5N1 strain and killing over 360 people around the world, the outbreak ten years ago forced the Shanghai show to close three days before the scheduled date. During the two days in which it stayed open, many visitors as well as some show girls chose to wear masks. Anything close to that would deal heavy blows to the city, organizers, and automakers which have lined up to launch new models (ten years ago, no automakers got any refund from the organizers or the city for the fees they paid to attend the show).
Scenes from the 2003 Shanghai Auto Show which was hit by H5N1 bird flu
The last time when it was hosted by Shanghai–that is, in 2011, the show was attended by about 0.7 million people. With crowds of several thousand packed in, the closed space created by the exhibition halls would be a warm bed for viruses, germs, and fears.
On top of the bird flu, Shanghai has, let’s not forget, over 10,000 dead pigs to worry about, which had recently floated on the Huangpu, a river runing through and providing drinking water to the city. For can fans who happen to be meat lovers, a stay in Shanghai for the show would be devoid of fun, with both pork and chicken are off the menu.