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China takes emergency steps as deadly bird flu found

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

CHINA - China has sealed off nature reserves and rushed more than 3 million doses of bird flu vaccine to a remote western province after migratory birds were found dead from the H5N1 strain, which can be fatal to humans.

China takes emergency steps as deadly bird flu found - CHINA - China has sealed off nature reserves and rushed more than 3 million doses of bird flu vaccine to a remote western province after migratory birds were found dead from the H5N1 strain, which can be fatal to humans.

Poultry across far-flung Qinghai province, neighbouring Tibet and Xinjiang, had become the "target of a compulsory vaccination campaign", the China Daily newspaper said on Monday.

Scientists had proved that the virus killed scores of geese in Qinghai in early May, media said at the weekend, the first report of H5N1 detected in China since last year.

There had been no reports of the virus spreading to humans or domestic fowl in Qinghai, officials said. The area where the dead geese were found had been sealed off for 10 days.

"So far there has not been any human or any other poultry incident that has been reported and there are a lot of measures that have been taken in terms of prevention (and) in terms of vaccination," Noureddin Mona, China representative for the Food and Agriculture Organisation, told Reuters.

The H5N1 strain has killed 37 Vietnamese, 12 Thais and four Cambodians since it swept across large parts of Asia in late 2003.

The World Health Organisation said last week the spate of human bird flu cases in Vietnam this year suggested the deadly form of the virus may be mutating in ways that are making it more capable of being passed between humans. Experts said domestic poultry in China, the world's number two producer after the United States, could also be at risk.

"There is a significant possibility of that, given the fact that wild birds quite often use the same water sources and feeding sources as domestic ducks or domestic geese," said Malik Peiris, a microbiologist at the University of Hong Kong. "One has to take this risk seriously."

China has been on high alert against bird flu after outbreaks in North Korea and Southeast Asia, which prompted it to tighten quarantine controls at its borders. But Qinghai is far from either border and domestic media said the birds may have migrated over the Himalayas from India for the mating season.

Mona said affected areas in Qinghai were under quarantine. "They have already sealed off the affected area and provided all the protective measures," he said.

The areas included an island in Qinghai Lake where more than 178 birds were found dead earlier this month, the official Xinhua news agency said. The island is home to more than 100,000 birds and is a major tourist attraction.

Last year, China successfully controlled outbreaks of bird flu with a combination of vaccinations, culling and surveillance, burning about 145,000 culled birds.

Experts said surveillance was especially important, since the disease had affected several different parts of Asia.

"Clearly it (this outbreak) shows this virus is still causing problems in this region."

Source: Reuters - 23rd May 2005

5m Editor