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Authorities acting to prevent epidemics
By Meng Yan and Qin Chuan (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-08-27 02:02

A series of measures are being taken to prevent animal epidemics since a bird flu outbreak in the country in the spring.

Local governments have reinforced the monitoring of bird flu. A total of 1.1 million active poultry samples were tested from April to August this year, said Jia Youling, director-general of the veterinary bureau under the Ministry of Agriculture.

The samples include 1.08 million active serologic ones, among which 75,000 tested positive. Follow-up surveys of the positive samples showed that they were all immune.

To prevent another bird flu epidemic, the ministry is currently organizing the inspection of cities and counties where bird flu cases were found in the spring.

No pig in the country has yet been found to be sick with the H5N1 bird flu virus, Jia said.

His announcement came a few days after media reports that the H5N1 virus had been found in Chinese pigs, which aroused fears that pigs in the nation could be infected.

Chinese experts did find two H5N1 strains from two samples of pigs in 2001 and 2003.

But finding the strains did not mean the pigs were sick and that there was an epidemic, he explained.

"Once there is an epidemic, we will provide timely information in line with the rules of relevant international organizations," he said.

After the two strains were found, Chinese experts strengthened the surveillance of pigs but no further strains have been found in pigs in China, he said.

The nation's lawmakers are doing their bit to ensure that laws on animal epidemic prevention and the entry and exit quarantine for animals and plants are carried out.

The Standing Committee of the 10th National People's Congress (NPC), China's top legislature, sent three groups of lawmakers on inspection tours in June and July.

These were conducted against the backdrop of this spring's outbreak of bird flu in some parts of China and some neighbouring countries.

They went to Shanghai, Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and Central China's Hunan Province.

The lawmakers found that the central government has increased its investment in the prevention of animal epidemics.

Supervision institutions have been established across the country above county-level, employing over 200,000 law enforcement officers. The State invested nearly 3 billion yuan (US$363 million) between 1998 and 2003 in major animal epidemic prevention projects and infrastructure construction such as epidemic information monitoring stations.

The country has taken more efforts to protect animals from diseases and strengthen quarantine measures, according to NPC Standing Committee Vice-Chairwoman Uyunqimg, who led one of the groups.

Animal mortality rates have fallen on a year-on-year basis thanks to compulsory immunization against major diseases. This has reduced annual economic losses by more than 1 million yuan (US$121 million). The country has quarantined a total of 10 billion animals since the Law on Animal Epidemic Prevention took effect in 1998. The government has detected nearly 2,000 kinds of animal and plant diseases since 1992 when the Law on Entry and Exit Quarantine for Animals and Plants was enforced.

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