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H7N9 Bird Flu Cases Continue to Rise

February 18, 2014

Officials have been forced to close poultry markets in two Chinese cities after the death toll from the current H7N9 bird flu outbreak in the country rose to 32. The announcement was reported last week by Xinhanet, a Chinese news agency, as the number of cases of the illness reached 120 so far in 2014.

The bird trade is considered a primary source of human infection for the virus as most of the diagnosed patients had close contact with poultry. The ban on markets which includes birds sold for food as well as pets will be in place until 28th February as the government try to curb the spread of the virus. Chicken and duck dishes are among the favourite foods in China’s eastern and southern regions.

The rise of H7N9 is being closely monitored by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as no human cases of the illness had been detected before March 2013. H7N9 causes few symptoms in poultry which means the exact exposure of human cases is difficult to establish. There is currently no vaccine but the WHO is working with partners on development with some products already at the testing stage. While the majority of those affected so far are on the Chinese mainland there have been isolated cases in Malaysia and Hong Kong.