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BEIJING (Reuters) - Authorities in China's third-largest city warned that about 30 percent of its live poultry markets were contaminated with the H7N9 avian flu virus, as an eastern province ordered markets to shut, state media reported on Saturday.
East China's Zhejiang province has ordered all markets across the province to halt live poultry trade on Saturday over bird flu concerns, state media Xinhua reported citing the province's Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
In January, Zhejiang reported 35 infections of the H7N9 strain of bird flu, according to the provincial Health and Family Planning Commission.
Earlier on Saturday, China Daily said the disease control authority in Guangzhou, capital of the southern Chinese province of Guangdong, urged residents to avoid contact with live poultry after tests in the past week.
Guangzhou, a major port and transportation hub, last month said it would suspend the trade of live and slaughtered poultry for three-day periods through March to prevent the spread of avian flu to humans.
The latest warning will reinforce concerns about the spread of the virus as the death toll in China this winter hit 30 last week and neighbouring South Korea and Japan battle major outbreaks.
Chinese disease control experts have warned the public to stay alert for H7N9 avian flu, with more than 100 cases of human infections reported over the last 2-1/2 months.
In December alone, China had 106 cases of human infections, according to the National Health and Family Planning Commission.
The virus usually strikes in winter and spring, and farmers have in recent years ramped up measures such as cleaning regimes to prevent the disease.
China has confirmed five bird flu outbreaks among poultry this winter, which has led to the culling of more than 175,000 birds.
Many major cities in the world's third-largest producer of broiler chickens and the second-biggest consumer of poultry have also closed some live poultry markets after people and chickens were infected by avian flu strains.
Widespread infection can lead to severe health risks and big financial losses. The last major outbreak in China was in 2013, killing 36 people and causing more than $6 billion in losses for the agricultural sector.
Reporting by Josephine Mason and Meng Meng; Editing by Richard Borsuk and Clelia Oziel