Claims of new bird flu variant rejected

By Zhao Huanxin (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-11-10 06:31

Claims in an international scientific journal that a new bird flu variant is prevalent in China, and that it has been transmitted to neighbouring countries, have been refuted by Chinese scientists.

Officials from the Ministry of Agriculture and two leading bird flu control experts are scheduled to hold a news conference Friday to rebut the findings of a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States last week.

The paper, "Emergence and predominance of an H5N1 influenza variant in China," claimed that a previously unidentified H5N1 variant, called H5N1 Fujian-like strain, was found in almost all poultry outbreaks; and caused recent human infections in southern China.

The study, by US and Hong Kong researchers, also claimed that the new strain of the virus has resulted in an outbreak in Southeast Asia.

"I have read the article and found its viewpoints and conclusion on the 'Fujian-like variant' lack scientific evidence," Director of the National Avian Influenza Reference Laboratory Chen Hualan said.

"The so-called 'Fujian-like variant' is by no means a new variant. It is highly homogeneous to the H5N1 subtype virus isolated in Hunan and other provinces during a bird flu outbreak in early 2004," she told China Daily in an exclusive interview.

The Ministry of Agriculture isolated only one new mutated virus strain of avian influenza during a surveillance campaign earlier this year in Shanxi Province and Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region in northern China, but no new virus was discovered in southern China, she said.

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