Bird flu cases spike in China ahead of new year celebrations

BY Bridget Bowman  January 24, 2014 at 6:51 PM EDT
The World Health Organization reported 40 cases of bird flu in China this month. Photo by Aaron Tam/AFP/Getty Images

The World Health Organization reported 40 cases of bird flu in China this month. Photo by Aaron Tam/AFP/Getty Images

There have been forty confirmed cases of bird flu in China this month, the World Health Organization reported Wednesday.

The WHO warned of a heightened danger of the virus spreading as Chinese New Year approaches. “Given the population movement prior to Chinese New Year and potentially unpredictable behaviour of influenza viruses, continued vigilance and close monitoring are needed,” read the organization’s website.

Chinese authorities predict that the celebrating citizens will make 3.6 billion trips during the New Year celebrations known as the Spring Festival. The WHO reported that the Chinese government continues to take preventative measures in the wake of the bird flu cases, including communicating with the public, releasing information, and strengthening surveillance.

In addition to the increased movement of people, WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl told BBC News that the spike in bird flu cases is also due to the tendency for flu viruses to spread during cold weather. “Our calculation was always that we were going to have to watch the winter, and that’s where we are at the moment,”said Hartl. “We need to remain vigilant, but so far the virus does not seem to have mutated in any way.”