China Focus: China steps up prevention of human H7N9 avian flu

The CHP said the big rise in H7N9 cases in the mainland has also resulted in imported cases detected in Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan.

China's worst H7N9 bird flu season appears to have passed its peak but still is expected to last into late April, according to the latest information from epidemiologists.

The bans have greatly reduced the number of new infections in many regions, said Ni Daxin, deputy director of the emergency response center at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

The situation has rekindled public concern about potential viral mutations that could facilitate human-to-human transmission and an H7N9 pandemic.

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Beijing on Saturday reported its first human H7N9 case this year.

Most infected patients become severely ill, and almost one in three cases are fatal.

"These were highly individual, and all other patients were infected through contact with infected live poultry or wild birds", he stressed.

In January alone, a total of 79 people reportedly died from H7N9 avian flu in China, which has affected the share prices of meat producers across the nation.

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Eight new human infections of the H7N9 avian flu were reported between Feb. 12 and Feb. 14, indicating the rate of new cases had clearly declined compared with the week of Feb. 6 to Feb. 12, when 69 new cases, including 8 deaths, were reported, the National Health and Family Planning Commision said on its website.

Chinese researchers have said that increased levels of H7N9 in poultry are likely driving the increase in human cases.

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. A preference among Chinese for live-bought, freshly-slaughtered poultry complicates the government's efforts to eradicate such diseases.

In order to promptly discover A/H7N9 virus and other virus strains, relevant agencies must regularly take samples from live poultry for testing. All human infections in Guangdong originated in live poultry and February - March is a crucial time for epidemic control, according to the local health commission.

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The closing of live poultry markets has proved effective in slowing the spread of the virus, he said, adding that the public can also help by avoiding live poultry markets or handling live poultry or their droppings.