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Chinese New Year holidays heighten bird flu fears
JANUARY 29, 2014 06:35  
There are mounting concerns over the spread of the deadly bird flu, as billions of Chinese people are expected to travel ahead of the Chinese New Year`s Day. The Chinese public health authorities are on high alert over the rapid rise in the number of patients infected with the new avian influenza (AI), which has surpassed 140 in China.

Amid a lack of official statistics about the deadly new strain of bird flu called H7N9, various Chinese media reports suggest Tuesday that 149 people have been infected with the new AI virus across China as of Monday, and 31 of them have died. In particular, the AI outbreak was concentrated in the Yangtze River basin areas and in southern provinces of China, including Zhejiang Province (49 people), Shanghai (33), Jiangsu Province (24), and Guangdong Province (26). The affected areas are expanding, as inflected people are found in other areas such as Fujian Province (10 people), Henan Province (3) and Anhui Province (3) and Beijing (1).

Considering the World Health Organization`s (WHO) January 20 report that there were over 40 confirmed AI patients in China this year, the number of infected people has more than tripled in just 10 days. Experts say that the speed of AI outbreak in human reached the highest level last year. Since the WHO reported a new bird flu strain in the Shanghai area in spring last year, 56 have died among 246 infected patients in mainland China alone.

There are mounting concerns that the number of AI-infected patients will increase further after the Chinese New Year`s holidays (January 31-February 6), when a large number of people are expected to move and the poultry consumption increases sharply.

China`s public health authorities have launched efforts to ease public anxiety over the epidemic. China`s National Health and Family Planning Commission said in a recent report on the H7N9 bird flu that the virus strand is not highly infectious and that the infection usually takes place between birds and humans as human-to-human infections are very rare. The panel also stressed that the new type AI usually has an incubation of three to four days. People who made contacts with poultry or patients would be fine if they do not have fever or coughing for four days after such contacts, the commission said. The incubation period was down from seven days last year. In addition, the authorities are strengthening preventive measures, banning or restricting the trades of live poultry in Shanghai, Hangzhou in Zhejiang Province, and Shenzhen in Guangdong Province, among others.

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