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Bird flu fear in China with 100 recent deaths

BEIJING: As many as 79 people have died from H7N9 bird flu in China last month, the government said.

This has stoked fears that the spread of the virus this season could be the worst on record.

Last month's fatalities were up to four times higher than the same month in past years and brought the total H7N9 death toll to 100 people since October, data from the National Health and Family Planning Commission showed late on Tuesday.

The authorities have warned the public to stay alert for the virus and cautioned against panic. But the latest data has sparked concerns of a repeat of previous crises, such as the 2002 outbreak of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars).

"It is mid-February and we are just getting the January numbers. With the death rate almost catching up with Sars, shouldn't warnings be issued earlier?" said one user of popular microblog Sina Weibo.

Other netizens are worried about the pace of infections and called for even more up-to-date reports. Meanwhile, chicken prices sank to their lowest levels in more than a decade yesterday.

The Centre for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota last week estimated China had at least 347 infections so far this winter, eclipsing the record of 319 seen three years ago. - REUTERS

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