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Yum Brands KFC sales in China hit by bird flu scare

A new strain of bird flu has seen sales of a popular brand of fried chicken plummet in China. US based Yum brands said the outbreak has had a significant, negative impact on its KFC chains.

"Within the past week, publicity associated with Avian flu in China has had a significant, negative impact on KFC sales," the company said in a regulatory filing on Wednesday. KFC, which stands for Kentucky Fried Chicken, is the biggest Western fast-food operator in China.

Yum Brands did not, however, quantify the impact. The company also suffered from a sharper-than-expected slide in March sales including a 16 percent drop at KFC.

The first known cases of the latest strain of avian flu were revealed by China at the end of March, when it was first detected at a market in Shanghai. Nine people have since died and 33 others have been infected with the H7N9 strain of the disease.

Chinese authorities have tried to clamp down on rumors about the deadly virus and its potential spread, and the company plans to educate consumers that properly cooked chicken is safe to eat.

More than half of Yum's overall sales come from China, where most of its nearly 5,300 restaurants are KFCs.

hc/lw (Reuters, AP)