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Health officers set up a marquee as they cull poultry at a wholesale market, as trade in live poultry suspended after a spot check at a local street market revealed the presence of H7N9 bird flu virus, in Hong Kong June 7, 2016. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

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BEIJING (Reuters) - An outbreak of a deadly bird flu virus in China's central Hunan province has prompted authorities to put a temporary bar on the sale of live poultry in several cities, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

Five people have died in Hunan from the H7N9 avian influenza strain since the start of the year, and 20 have been infected, the provincial centre for disease control and prevention said late on Tuesday.

Live poultry markets are still common in smaller towns and cities around China, although most major cities no longer permit trade in live birds since the bird flu strain first infected humans in 2013.

More than 100 new cases of H7N9 virus have been reported in China since late last year, and experts have warned that the disease is likely to continue spreading.

Markets in Hunan's capital Changsha and other cities including Yueyang have been temporarily closed, said the report.

China is the world's second-biggest poultry consumer.

(Reporting by Dominique Patton; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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