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China grapples with fresh bird flu, foot and mouth

by 5m Editor
27 May 2005, at 12:00am

CHINA - A strain of bird flu deadly to humans has killed five times the number of migratory birds in China initially reported, an agriculture official said on Friday, as scientists in the west warned of a possible global pandemic.

China grapples with fresh bird flu, foot and mouth - CHINA - A strain of bird flu deadly to humans has killed five times the number of migratory birds in China initially reported, an agriculture official said on Friday, as scientists in the west warned of a possible global pandemic.

China was also grappling with foot-and-mouth disease outbreaks in cattle in three new areas, but said they had been brought control and posed no risk to humans.

Jia Youling, director general of the veterinary bureau of the Agriculture Ministry, said more than 1,000 wild birds in the far-flung northwest province of Qinghai had died from the H5N1 strain of the disease.

State media earlier this week put the number of dead birds at 178 as China sealed off nature reserves and rushed more than 3 million doses of bird flu vaccine to Qinghai.

"What we have been doing is preventing domestic fowl and people from having contact with wild migrant birds," Jia said.

H5N1 first surfaced in poultry in Hong Kong and China eight years ago and has killed at least 37 people in Vietnam, 12 in Thailand and four in Cambodia.

Scientists fear that avian flu, which is infectious in birds but does not spread easily among humans, could mutate into a form better able to pass from animals to people, possibly triggering a global flu pandemic.

Scientists say such a pandemic would likely start in Asia and could kill millions and result in devastating economic losses.

None of the 2.18 million domestic birds in Qinghai had been found to be infected, Jia said. He dismissed rumours any humans had been infected.

VACCINATION CAMPAIGN

Poultry in Qinghai and the far western regions of Xinjiang and Tibet have been the targets of a compulsory vaccination campaign in an effort to control the disease and prevent it from spreading to domestic fowl or to humans.

But experts said there was still a chance domestic poultry could be at risk, since they often share water and feeding sources with wild birds.

China successfully curbed an outbreak in the same region last year, burning about 145,000 culled birds.

It has also killed and incinerated more than 800 head of cattle to control the outbreak of the Asia type 1 foot-and-mouth disease, in Beijing, the neighbouring province of Hebei and the western region of Xinjiang, Jia said.

"All the sick cows and cows living in the same area have been culled. The disease has been put under effective control and has not spread," he said, adding no pigs had been found to be infected and there was no threat to public health.

From April to May, more than 4,000 head of cattle were culled, Jia said.

Foot-and-mouth disease causes severe weight loss in cloven-hoofed animals. It does not affect humans and outbreaks are relatively easy to control.

China has kept outbreaks of the disease hidden in the past, but has already reported the disease in cattle in the provinces of Shandong and Jiangsu.

Despite scant reporting on the disease in state media, Jia said there had been no coverup of the outbreak, though he added he could not guarantee that local governments were being completely forthcoming.

Source: Reuters - 27th May 2005

5m Editor