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Precaution against bird flu

According to the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, H7N9 bird flu virus has already killed 20 people in the country so far this year and the total number of infections is 96. East China's Zhejiang province has seen the highest number of deaths, 12. East China's Zhejiang province, Shanghai and South China's Guangdong province, the comparatively higher incidence areas, have found 83 people infected.

According to a paper on H7N9 diagnosis and treatment issued by the National Health and Family Planning Commission on Sunday, people may be infected via respiratory spread, touching poultry excretions or coming into contact with a contaminated environment.

So it is particularly important that individuals take proper precautions when handling poultry, even seemingly healthy birds, as fowl show no symptoms of the virus.

And although there is no evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission, with millions of people on the move for the Spring Festival holiday, travelers who are coughing or showing any flu symptoms should think twice before traveling and wear masks if they do.

Although most of the cases detected so far have been in East and South China, it does not necessarily mean that those in northern and western China are safe from the virus, especially during and after the annual season of huge migration of pepole to and from home during the holiday.

And despite there being no evidence to suggest that there is a connection between the dry and warm winter and the outbreak of any kind of bird flu, people tend to be more susceptible to the cold virus or ordinary flu virus in such weather conditions.

There has been no precipitation, either snow or rain, for more than three months in most parts of northern and western China, and temperatures have been higher than normal this winter, so it is possible there might be an increased risk of H7N9 bird flu virus spreading more easily among poultry. Therefore, preventive measures need to be taken in markets where live fowl are traded and on family farms where chickens or ducks are raised.

There should be strengthened monitoring, and anyone suspected of contracting the virus should be taken to one of the designated hospitals, as early reporting, diagnosis and treatment can help control the spread of virus.