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China's capital steps up bird flu surveillance
Updated: 2005-10-23 15:49

China's capital Beijing has stepped up its efforts to combat bird flu by sending inspectors to farms, households and migratory bird sanctuaries to enforce disease prevention controls.

A vendor passes a duck she has just butchered to her daughter at her poultry stall in Beijing. China's capital has stepped up its efforts to combat bird flu by sending inspectors to farms, households and migratory bird sanctuaries to enforce disease prevention controls. [AFP]

The stepped-up veterinary checks came after China reported its first outbreak of bird flu in more than two months, on a farm in its northern Inner Mongolia region, where 2,600 birds died, with 91,000 others culled.

Chinese leaders have warned the country faces a "grave" threat from avian influenza, as both Asia and Europe fight to contain the deadly virus.

Officials in Beijing have begun checking chickens, ducks, geese and even carrier pigeons being raised as pets in the city to make sure they are properly vaccinated or isolated, the Beijing Youth Daily reported.

So far, some 98 percent of the poultry raised on Beijing's farms have been vaccinated, and officials hope to increase the rate to 100 percent in the coming days, the report quoted city agricultural officials saying.

Poultry markets, slaughterhouses and zoos will also be monitored, and special attention will be paid to farms near sanctuaries for migratory birds, which are believed to have brought bird flu to several countries.

In Beijing, security was to be stepped up at airports, bus and train stations and at border crossings to prevent birds from infected areas reaching the capital, said the report.

City officials were also taking steps to ensure there is an adequate stockpile of vaccines and disinfectants.

President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao have issued a directive for an all-out effort to prevent the spread of the virus, amidst fears of a global pandemic after Russia, Romania and Turkey all confirmed new outbreaks.

World Health Organization officials in Beijing said although China had strong political determination to tackle the problem, and had stepped up monitoring efforts, more needed to be done at the local level.

Disease prevention officials in Beijing and other Chinese cities face a tough task, as it is common for families to raise poultry for their own consumption.

Residents of Beijing, especially in the older "hutong" alley neighborhoods, often keep their small flocks in cages in their yards, balconies or just outside their front door.

Chickens and ducks were still on sale at small sidewalk markets in the capital.

Southern China's Guangdong province said it would set up a surveillance system to detect animal diseases quickly and prevent the spread to humans, the Beijing Youth Daily said in a separate report.

Guangdong was the location for the first outbreak of the pneumonia-like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome ( SARS) in November 2002, which triggered a global health crisis, causing nearly 800 deaths worldwide.

China has battled at least four outbreaks of bird flu this year, although there have been no human infections so far.

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