China is looking to close its live poultry markets as part of measures to combat bird flu, AFP reported, citing a document released by the State Council. Live chicken markets are popular in China – and in Asia in general – as people prefer the freshest meat possible, but they are seen as incubators of bird flu and other diseases. The State Council document calls for a ban on new markets and the relocation of existing markets from heavily populated areas, arguing that these "are important measures in effectively controlling the occurrence and spread of the bird flu". However, the document, issued on November 20 but only reported in state media on Tuesday, is an "opinion" of the State Council rather than a formal law. Around 47,000 birds have been culled this year in 10 bird flu outbreaks. A total of 21 people have contracted bird flu in China since the end of 2003, with 14 of these cases being fatal.