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H7N9 Avian Flu Virus Outbreak In China Kills Dozens; Country Remains Calm

Update Date: Feb 21, 2017 08:00 PM EST

For the past several weeks, Chinese authorities have been working hard to combat the surge of the H7N9 bird flu virus in the different provinces of the country. The government has taken serious steps which includes closing live poultry markets and killing poultry affected by the virus.

Earlier this month, the state news agency, Xinhua confirmed 77 cases and 8 deaths while 192 people were infected the month before with 79 deaths reported.

The H7N9 strain, also known as avian influenza A infects people who comes in close contact infected birds, both live and newly killed. According to The New York Times, majority of the cases are from close contact with the birds.

The first diagnosis H7N9 bird flu virus outbreak in humans was confirmed in China in back in 2013. Since then, the virus have resurged every winter and spring.

This year however, Reuters reported changes have been found in the virus strain and is believed to be more severe now. Christian Lindmeier, a spokesperson for the World Health Organization (WHO) clarified that while the virus have become highly pathogenic for poultry, there is no evidence on changes of its effect on humans.

Reuters also reported that compared to previous years, there was lesser panic among Chinese citizens this year. In 2013, the outbreak caused hysteria that prompted mass poultry killings and for chicken to be taken out of the menu at schools, some restaurants and airlines. The 2013 outbreak caused the country's economy $6.5 billion in losses.

Now, consumers are more resilient. Rabobank senior analyst, Pan Chenjun said it is possibly because of the limited coverage of the outbreak. Chinese authorities on the other hand said they will be closely monitoring poultry markets and the transport of live birds to markets.

China Youth Daily, a party-owned newspaper also reported that consumer preference for buying live chicken is one contributing factor to the spread of the avian virus since infected poultry cannot be easily spotted or identified.

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