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Countries join hands to fight bird flu
By Wu Chong (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-11-01 22:56

Four East Asian countries will join forces to fight bird flu.

A regional diagnostic laboratory and surveillance network will link China, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the Republic of Korea and Mongolia.

The network is supported by US$400,000 grant from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Based in Beijing, the network will have its lead laboratory in Northeast China's Harbin, Heilongjiang Province, said the FAO.

The idea is to prompt laboratories share research on bird flu and provide guidance to other countries in the region that may be at risk of infection, said Sarah Kahn, a senior official with the FAO.

"In that way, countries can have an early warning and be better prepared," said Kahn, who works at the Animal Production and Health Division of the FAO.

"We've seen China has done a lot of good work in bird flu research. We hope it can provide some related staff training for other countries in East Asia."

Kahn said all countries still need to do more work to combat bird flu in some areas, such as detecting infection in ducks and finding out more about categories of virus in wild birds.

"They need to conduct more scientific studies and have good collaboration between laboratories for human health and for animal health."

Kahn said while using vaccination is the best way to prevent visible bird flu outbreaks, it is important to use the surveillance strategy to discover cases of infection even if no signs of disease are seen.

Kahn's colleague Hans-Gerhard Wagner, who now works in Thailand, cited the latest bird flu outbreak in tigers in the country to warn the world that "every possibility where the avian influenza moves to other species is something we have to watch carefully."

Thirty tigers in a private zoo in eastern Thailand died of bird flu last month after being fed raw chickens.

Wagner suggested every country in Asia should take biosecurity, namely good management of farms, into consideration to avoid risking infections.

The FAO has also launched a similar network in Southeast Asia and will kick off another in South Asia soon.

China, Thailand, Viet Nam, Indonesia and Malaysia have all reported bird flu outbreaks since July, after an outbreak earlier this year. About 32 Asian people have died of it this year, according to the World Health Organization.

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