Chinese state media reports have sought to dispel “excessive anxiety” over a new strain of bird flu, urging people to keep eating chicken and help revive the country’s badly hit poultry industry.

China’s poultry industry has lost 10 billion yuan ($1.6 billion) since reports of the first human cases of the H7N9 bird flu virus emerged last week. Yum Brands, parent company of KFC, has also reported plummeting sales following the bird flu outbreak.

In an editorial, the Global Times called on the public to “somewhat restrain their anxieties to avoid this becoming a disaster for the whole poultry industry”. The resulting mass hysteria, it said, was “unfair to farmers” and the piece went on to urge people to “demonstrate a collective spirit beyond individualism”.

While the source of the infection and how it is spreading remains unknown, the World Health Organization said influenza viruses are rendered inactive by temperatures above 70 degrees Celsius (158F), making it safe to eat well-cooked meat.

A total of 63 people have been confirmed as infected and 14 have died even as health authorities in Shanghai began killing hundreds of chickens at live-poultry markets in a bid to contain the virus.