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H7N9 avian influenza concerns escalate in China

The World Health Organization and Chinese authorities are investigating how three members of one family contracted the H7N9 avian influenza virus. 

There have been 192 confirmed human cases of the virus, including 59 deaths reported by China since April 2013, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

WHO officials still believe the infection is not spreading from human to human. Chinese officials have closed live poultry markets in Zhejiang province, where H7N9 infections have spiked to 49 infections, including 12 deaths.

The escalating bird flu concerns were cited as one of the reasons Tyson Foods has opted to slow down the pace of its poultry processing in China.

Tyson Foods CEO Donnie Smith said, the company is still committed to vertically integrating its operations there and at this time the two plants are running one shift with company controlled birds. 

Smith said they had hoped to double that production by year end, using only company controlled birds. In the mean time the company had been purchasing birds for slaughter. But on Friday (Jan. 31), Smith said given a slower economic pace and tepid consumer demand because of the heightened flu fears the company would not be purchasing birds for slaughter and production.

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He said it will take longer that originally thought to get the two plants fully operational, multiple shifts with solely company controlled birds, but that is the still the plan.

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