China reported as many as 79 fatalities from H7N9 bird flu in January, the government said, far surpassing the number of deaths in recent years and stoking fears about the rapid spread of the deadly virus among the population.
The news released by the National Health and Family Planning Commission late on Tuesday brings the death toll since October to 100, Reuters reports.
The total for January far surpasses the numbers for the same month in the past three years, which ranged from 20 to 31.
Some 192 people were infected last month, the commission said, bringing the total since October to 306.
The latest data will reinforce concerns about the spread of the virus among humans as neighboring South Korea and Japan also battle major outbreaks among their poultry flocks.
Chinese disease control experts have warned the public to stay alert for H7N9 avian flu.
The virus usually strikes in winter and spring, and farmers have in recent years ramped up measures such as cleaning regimes to prevent the spread of the disease.
Many major cities in the world’s third-largest producer of broiler chickens and the second-biggest consumer of poultry have also closed some live poultry markets after people and chickens were infected by avian flu strains.
China has confirmed five bird flu outbreaks among poultry this winter, which has led to the culling of more than 175,000 birds.
Widespread infection can lead to severe health risks and big financial losses. The last major outbreak in China was in 2013, causing more than US$6 billion in losses for the agricultural sector.
– Contact us at [email protected]