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Co-ordination vital to curb human pandemic
By Zhao Huanxin (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-03-07 05:52

As the spread of bird flu picks up pace around the world, China yesterday called for closer international co-operation to help prevent a human pandemic.

"The international community should further improve the information-sharing mechanism for the disease," a Ministry of Agriculture official said.

Apart from China, only a few developing countries have submitted bird-flu virus samples to international organizations for technical assistance, said the official who did not want to be identified.

He made the remarks as more than 30 experts gathered in Geneva yesterday for a three-day meeting called to sharpen the global response to any human outbreak of H5N1 bird flu.

The Ministry of Health confirmed on Sunday the country's ninth human fatality a 32-year-old man in South China's Guangdong Province - from the infection.

H5N1 has spread to at least 15 new countries in the past month. The virus has infected 174 people since 2003, killing 94 of them, according to news reports.

The ministry official said H7, H5 and H2 types of avian influenza have been reported in North America, Europe and some Asian countries in recent years.

Some of the strains are very virulent, and others are of great value for developing either human vaccines or prevention technology.

"Therefore we hope that with the co-ordination of relevant world organizations, countries concerned will submit bird-flu virus strains in a timely fashion," he said.

In addition to co-operating with the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) in bird flu prevention, the Ministry of Agriculture has offered technical and material as well as financial aid to countries including Viet Nam, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Mongolia and Indonesia, he said.

"China remains committed to participating in, and promoting, international co-operation for bird flu control," he said.

Meanwhile, national legislators and policy advisers have asked the government to help revive the poultry industry which has been badly affected by bird flu, and popularize prevention methods among people.

Since millions of birds have been slaughtered in China to try to stop the spread of the virus, said Yang Xixiu, a national legislator, the government should help set up farm produce assurance organizations in the countryside to relieve the woes of farmers ravaged by epidemics.

Yang made the remarks while attending the annual meeting of the National People's Congress, China's top legislature, which is in session in Beijing.

Zhong Nanshan, a national policy adviser and director of the Guangzhou Institute of Respiratory Diseases, warned on Sunday that the threat of bird flu spreading to humans is looming closer.

It is imperative to disseminate bird flu knowledge to every resident, and such publicity should be made "compulsory,?Zhong was quoted by the China News Service as saying.

China stamped out 32 outbreaks of fatal bird flu in 2005, and another three at the onset of this year, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.

(China Daily 03/07/2006 page1)

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