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Bird Flu Cases Increases Ahead of Chinese New Year

Update Date: Jan 23, 2014 11:38 AM EST

A sudden increase in the cases of the deadly new strain of bird flu is being reported in China, according to BBC. 

Officials said there were only handful of cases since June, but this year, more than 60 cases have been reported. 

According to influenza researchers, winter seasons and preparations for Chinese New Year might be the cause of the increment in the cases. 

The World Health Organization has called for vigilance and alerted authorities saying virus was likely to remain present for some time. 

H7N9, which usually affects domestic chickens and ducks, it started affecting people too by the end of March 2013. 

Between, June and November there were only five cases reported. 

"Our calculation was always that we were going to have to watch the winter, and that's where we are at the moment.We need to remain vigilant, but so far the virus does not seem to have mutated in any way," said Gregory Hartl, spokesman for the World Health Organization (WHO), according to BBC.

"Some people will be looking very closely at the Chinese New Year, when there will be lots of people traveling. It will be crowded on trains and they'll also be traveling with chickens."

The range of virus has also spread to Guangdong province which is further south and east than previously. "I've been worried all the time about H7N9; it's highly virulent and the case fatality is about one in three, so it poses a threat," said Prof John McCauley, the director of a WHO collaborating centre on influenza in London, according to BBC

"It may be seasonal, or an alternative is more poultry exposure in the build-up to Chinese New Year, and more poultry going through the markets.

"They might need to reconsider closure of the markets."

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