China Bird Flu Death Toll Rises to 162

China reported six new cases of H7N9 bird flu, including one death in Hunan province despite closing the live poultry markets there last month.

At least 162 deaths were reported since October as the number of human infections this season surged to the highest level since 2009. Health authorities said that cold and wet weather in Hunan played a role in the recent spread of the virus.

A total ban on live poultry trading in Changsha had been in effect since March 17 and would continue for another five days.

In March, the authorities reported an outbreak of the virus in the province originating from a farm with about 29,760 infected birds. More than 170,000 birds in the area were culled as a result.

Medical specialists said that attempts by mainland authorities to curb the H7N9 bird flu virus in live poultry markets came too late, noting that officials failed to take ­preventative steps before the peak flu season started.

The H7N9 virus shows little or no clinical symptoms in poultry, complicating detection. But the specialists said that authorities should have stepped up their surveillance going into the peak season.

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