Nation goes on bird flu high alert
( 2004-01-15 22:40) (China Daily)
While still on high alert against SARS, Chinese health and quarantine authorities yesterday enhanced their efforts to prevent another deadly infectious disease, bird flu.
Human symptoms of the disease include fever, coughing and pneumonia -- similar to SARS.
The avian flu has killed millions of chickens in neighbouring Viet Nam, the Republic of Korea (ROK) and Japan. China is still clear from the disease.
The World Health Organization (WHO) warned yesterday that bird flu could become a bigger problem for the region than SARS.
China's Ministry of Agriculture and State Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine announced a ban on the direct or indirect imports of poultry and related goods from Japan, the ROK, and Viet Nam.
Meanwhile, Chinese quarantine authority also asked its branches to strengthen quarantines on people from countries where bird flu has broken out.
The Ministry of Health also asked health workers yesterday to highlight monitoring and prevention work of the disease.
The bird flu scare comes just as China grapples with new cases of SARS, also believed to have originated in animals.
China last week confirmed its first SARS case of the season, and has since announced two additional suspected cases, all in Guangzhou, capital city of South China's Guangdong Province.
Still, WHO officials say there has been no person-to-person spread of bird flu.
Health officials attribute the infections in humans to contact with the feces of sick birds.
If the virus develops the ability to spread through human contact, it could become a big health crisis, WHO regional co-ordinator Peter Cordingley said on Wednesday in Manila, Philippines.
It's "a bigger potential problem than SARS because we do not have any defenses against the disease," Cordingley said. "If it latches on to a human influenza virus, then it could cause serious international damage."
Alan Hay, director of the London-based World Influenza Centre, agreed that the virus could become more potent if mixed with a human virus, but added "we know relatively little about what is actually necessary if that happens."
In another development, a joint WHO-Chinese Ministry of Health team travelled to the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region yesterday for a seven-day trip.
The group will assess Guangxi's preparedness to cope with infectious diseases in general and SARS in particular.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan said yesterday the daily reporting system by the Ministry of Health is "highly transparent and efficient."
Though there have been reports complaining official information is late, Kong stressed the official channel is open and accurate.
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