BACKGROUND: Although investigations have shown that closing live poultry markets (LPMs) is highly effective in controlling human influenza A (H7N9) infections, many of the urban LPMs were shut down, but rural LPMs remained open. This study aimed to compare the proportional changes between urban and rural infections in the Zhejiang province from 2013 to 2017 by analyzing the exposure histories of human cases. METHODS: All laboratory-confirmed cases of H7N9 from 2013 (the first wave) to 2017 (the fifth wave) in the Zhejiang province of China were analyzed. Urban and rural infections were defined based on the locations of poultry exposure (direct and indirect) in urban areas (central towns) and rural areas (towns and villages on the outskirts of cities). A Chi-square trend test was used to compare the proportional trend between urban and rural infections over time and logistic regression was used to obtain the odds ratio by years. RESULTS: From 2013 to 2017, a statistically significant trend in rural infections was observed (p <0.01). The incremental odds ratio by years of rural infections was 1.59 with 95% confidence intervals of 1.34 to 1.86. Each year, significant increases in the proportion of live poultry transactions in LPMS and poultry processing plants were detected in conjunction with an increased proportion of urban and rural infections. CONCLUSION: The empirical evidence indicated a need for heightened infection control measures in rural areas, such as serving rural farms and backyards as active surveillance points for the H7N9 virus. Other potential interventions such as the vaccination of poultry and extending the closure of LPMs to the provincial level require further careful investigations.
Chen, E., Wang, M. H., He, F., Sun, R., Cheng, W., Zee, B. C. Y., … Chong, K. C. (2018). An increasing trend of rural infections of human influenza A (H7N9) from 2013 to 2017: A retrospective analysis of patient exposure histories in Zhejiang province, China. PLoS ONE, 13(2). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0193052