Reuters Thursday, 16 February 2017 349 views

Chinese bird flu deaths surge

BEIJING (Reuters) – As many as 79 people died from H7N9 bird flu in China last month, the government said, stoking worries that the spread of the virus this season could be the worst on record.
 

January’s fatalities were up to four times higher than the same month in past years and brought the total H7N9 death toll to 100 people since October, data from the National Health and Family Planning Commission showed late on Tuesday.
 

Authorities have repeatedly warned the public to stay alert for the virus and cautioned against panic in the world’s second-largest economy.
 

But the latest bird flu data has sparked concerns of a repeat of previous health crises, like the 2002 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
 

“It’s mid-February already and we are just getting the January numbers. With the death rate almost catching up with SARS, shouldn’t warnings be issued earlier?” said one user of popular microblog Sina Weibo.
 

Other netizens in the Chinese blogosphere worried about the pace of infections and called for even more up-to-date reports.
 

The People’s Daily, the official paper of the ruling Communist Party, warned people in a social media post to stay away from live poultry markets, saying it was “extremely clear” that poultry and their excrement were the cause of the infections.
 

“The situation is still ongoing, and our Chinese counterparts are actively investigating the reported cases,” the World Health Organization’s China Representative Office said.
 

“As the investigation is ongoing, it is premature to conclusively identify the cause for the increased number of cases. Nevertheless, we know that the majority of human cases got the A(H7N9) virus through contact with infected poultry or contaminated environments, including live poultry markets.”
 

Chinese chicken prices sank to their lowest levels in more than a decade yesterday.

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