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A surge in cases of the H7N9 strain of avian influenza in China has led authorities to close down poultry markets in some provinces to curb its spread.
At least six provinces have reported human cases of H7N9 influenza this year, according to Chinese state media, Xinhua.
The surge in cases began in December, when 106 cases were reported, with 20 deaths, according to China’s National Health and Family Planning Commission. In January, there were 192 infections and 79 deaths.
Martin Taylor, team leader of health systems and healthy security at the World Health Organization’s China office, confirmed that January set a record in terms of H7N9 fatalities.
From February 6 to 12, 61 human cases of avian influenza, including seven deaths, were recorded, according to the latest figures from China’s Centre for Health Protection in the Department of Health, which received figures from the commission.
To prevent further spread of the virus, live poultry trading has been suspended in cities across affected provinces, including Sichuan, Hunan and Zhejiang, state media reported.
An earlier start
The number of people infected is more than four times the total seen between December 2015 and February 2016.
There were five deaths in January 2016, as opposed to the 79 reported this year.
“Factors could be an earlier start to the flu season and also a higher rate of infection among poultry,” Taylor said.
But the WHO cannot yet make any concrete conclusions about the rise in cases.
“As you would expect, there are lots of investigations going and questions being asked,” Taylor said.
He also believes that the virus is not out of control.

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