Taiwan raised its bird flu alert on Monday after the highly pathogenic virus strain killed more than 3,000 birds at a turkey farm in the west of the country, the government said.

Taiwan last week confirmed that the H5N6 avian flu virus had been discovered in a dead gosling found on the roadside in Hualien county in eastern Taiwan on February 2.

On Sunday it was confirmed to have been behind the mass deaths on Thursday of the birds at the farm in Tainan, the first time it had been found on a farm on the island.

"The central government now needs the collaboration from local units, which must send in updates immediately," Premier Lin Chuan said when he chaired the first emergency response meeting late Monday.

The Council of Agriculture said late Monday that the H5N6 virus strain has been also found in a black bone chicken farm in Chiayi, which is adjacent to Tainan. 

Taiwan's Centres for Disease Control urged residents who might have been exposed to infected birds to monitor themselves for any symptoms consistent with influenza, state-run Central News Agency reported.

But the virus, which has also been found on farms in South Korea and Japan since late 2016, is not as easily transmitted to humans as some other strains.

Meanwhile, mainland Chinese authorities are battling a different strain of the bird flu virus, H7N9.

China's Health and Family Planning Commission on Monday reported the first H7N9 infection in Beijing this year. The patient was a 68-year-old man from the neighbouring Hebei province, who was believed to have been in contact with live poultry, Xinhua news agency reported.

Chinese authorities have started closing poultry markets in an effort to curb the spread of the virus.

In Changsha, the capital of the central Hunan province, all poultry markets have been suspended, Xinhua said. The H7N9 virus has killed five people and has infected a total of 24 people in the province since the beginning of the year.

Authorities closed 280 poultry markets and slaughterhouses in the city of Suining in the south-western Sichuan province after four H7N9 cases had been reported there this year, Xinhua said.

The eastern Zhejiang province also halted all live poultry trading in its markets over bird flu concerns. Zhejiang reported 35 new H7N9 infections in January.

Six other Chinese provinces have reported H7N9 cases this year.

The first human infections with the H7N9 bird flu strain in China were reported in March 2013.

Outbreaks of the virus are more likely to happen in winter and spring, when cooler temperatures allow the virus to survive.

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