BEIJING (AP) – Authorities in eastern China said Tuesday they will ban live poultry sales after an increase in the number of people infected with the H7N9 strain of bird flu, with the busy Chinese New Year travel period already under way.
So far this year, H7N9 has killed 19 people in China and infected 96, Feng Zijian, the deputy director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday, according to state media.
A week ago, more than 50 cases had been reported. The virus remains hard to catch and most cases have been linked to contact with poultry.
The jump in cases comes during the 40-day travel period around Chinese New Year, during which Chinese are expected to make 3.6 billion trips as families reunite. Chinese New Year, which is on Friday, also falls during the winter months when flu typically rages.
Live poultry trading will be halted in cities in coastal Zhejiang province from Feb. 15, where 49 people have died, according to the Zhejiang Daily, which is run by the province’s propaganda department. From July, city poultry markets will be closed.
Neighboring Shanghai will halt live poultry trading for three months starting Friday. The city has reported eight infections and four deaths this year.
The World Health Organization says there is no evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission, but recommends continued vigilance and close monitoring given the population movement prior to Chinese New Year and potentially unpredictable behavior of flu viruses.
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