The World Health Organization (WHO) reaffirmed that there is no evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission of the H7N9 avian influenza virus.
"Since the first outbreak of H7N9 avian influenza virus in humans was identified in 2013, there have been five seasonal epidemics observed in China," WHO's China Country Office told Xinhua in a written interview, China reported 79 fatalities from H7N9 avian flu in January, the Chinese health authorities has said.
Since the beginning of the year, 16 provincial regions have reported human H7N9 avian flu cases, with 192 cases in January, according to the National Health and Family Planning Commission of China.
Given that most human cases were exposed to the H7N9 virus through contact with infected poultry or contaminated environments, China's health authorities implemented various measures to prevent and control the virus as well as shut down related live poultry markets.
WHO hailed China's strong surveillance system which identifies and reports new cases of emerging and infectious diseases such as H7N9, as well as its capacity to screen the virus for potential changes.
"The closure of live bird markets, and other measures to keep the markets hygienic and safe appear to have been a key factor in the control of previous outbreaks," WHO highlighted.
WHO said based on the reported information, there is no evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission, and there are no significant changes of the virus' properties or of the epidemiology of human infections.
The UN health agency explained that whenever influenza viruses are circulating in poultry, sporadic infections or small clusters of human cases are possible, especially in people exposed to infected poultry or contaminated environments.
WHO said that it is important for the general public to take precautionary measures to reduce exposure to avian influenza viruses from infected poultry.
As it is often difficult to tell whether poultry are infected with certain types of avian influenza, it is vital to promote good hygiene practices while handling, slaughtering and preparing poultry for consumption.
Due to the constantly evolving nature of influenza viruses, WHO continued to stress the importance of global surveillance to detect virological, epidemiological and clinical changes associated with circulating influenza A (H7N9) viruses.
WHO warned that nearly 40 world economies have reported fresh outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza in poultry or wild birds since November last year.