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China acts to stop spread of avian flu
(Financial Times)
Updated: 2005-10-29 10:41

China yesterday described the spread of avian influenza in birds around the country as highly alarming, and said it was in the midst of carrying out a campaign to eradicate and vaccinate birds.

In the past two weeks authorities have destroyed more than 47,300 domesticated birds in three provinces after local outbreaks. Nearly 7m birds have already been vaccinated in the country as a whole. However, there were no human cases of bird flu in the country, the health ministry said.

Beijing's drastic precautionary steps are a sign of its growing concern that a lethal strain of bird flu strain could make its way into the human population.

"The situation this year has been severe," said Jia Youling, the top veterinary official with the Ministry of Agriculture. "Even though we have the right preventive methods and have done a lot of work, our efforts have not been balanced [between different regions]."

Domesticated bird farms that have been infected have been sealed off, disinfected and all poultry within a 3km radius have been culled.

Inspection teams have been dispatched around the country and laboratories are testing new disease samples.

China has recently destroyed and vaccinated chickens, ducks and geese in Inner Mongolia, Anhui and Hunan - the provinces where the latest outbreaks took place.

Mr Jia argued China had been the only country carrying out such a "large-scale" vaccination programme. "We have redoubled our efforts," he said.

The majority of the nation's poultry, which, by China's estimate account for a fifth of the world's total, come from small and unsanitary household operations.

Mr Jia said a concern was that domesticated and wild birds would come into frequent contact, facilitating the spread of the disease. He displayed a map that showed three of eight main bird migration routes running through China.

Julie Hall, an infectious disease expert with the World Health Organisation, said outbreaks in China this year had been reported in a timely matter but the country's response plan for a possible pandemic needed to be more efficient. "We don't fully understand this virus," said Dr Hall. "

Chen Xianyi, head of the emergency response unit at the health ministry, said there had been "extensive co-operation" with international organisations

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