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Cost seen limiting use of flu drug on birds in China

by 5m Editor
22 June 2005, at 12:00am

CHINA - High costs will limit the use of an anti-viral drug to treat Chinese poultry infected with deadly bird flu, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said on Wednesday.

Cost seen limiting use of flu drug on birds in China - CHINA - High costs will limit the use of an anti-viral drug to treat Chinese poultry infected with deadly bird flu, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said on Wednesday.

The World Health Organisation gave tacit confirmation on Tuesday that amantadine, an anti-viral drug meant for humans, had been used on birds at Chinese farms, a practice that threatens to make the medication useless for fighting human influenza.

The Washington Post said at the weekend the Chinese government had encouraged farmers to use amantadine on poultry to suppress avian flu, which the government has since denied.

China's Ministry of Agriculture sent the FAO a report on Tuesday that said the government had never approved use of amantadine on birds and that it was well aware of the risks, Noureddin Mona, the FAO's representative in China, said.

"In the report, I could read between the lines that some farmers maybe used (amantadine)," Mona told Reuters. But the scope of use of the anti-viral drug would be limited in China because of the price.

"Using amantadine on poultry is very costly, it is not economical, because you have to use it every day, unlike the vaccines that are used once every six months," Mona said.

"The (bird flu) vaccines here in China are cheap and are distributed to some institutions like veterinary departments and they are distributed free of charge. And if some farmers buy them on their own, they can get some subsidies or compensation."

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 and possibly trigger a global flu pandemic.

The deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu 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.

China reported a new outbreak of H5N1 in its far western Xinjiang region this week, the third time the virus has been found among birds in remote western China in recent months.

"It looks like the virus is still very active," Mona said.

Source: Reuters - 22nd June 2005

5m Editor