China hails bird flu vaccine amid pandemic warning
Updated: 2005-05-26 14:27
China has developed vaccines that block the spread of the deadly H5N1 strain
of bird flu among birds and mammals, Xinhua news agency reported, as scientists
in the west warned of a possible global pandemic killing millions.
Scientists fear that avian flu, which is infectious in
birds but does not spread easily among humans, could mutate into a form more
capable of passing from animals to people.
China has developed vaccines that block the
spread of the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu among birds and mammals,
Xinhua news agency reported. In this file photo, Chinese researchers work
at the Harbin Veterinary Research Institute in Harbin, in northeast
China's Heilongjiang province on March 22, 2005. Picture taken March 22,
The H5N1 strain first surfaced in poultry in Hong Kong and the Chinese
mainland eight years ago and has killed 37 people in Vietnam, 12 in Thailand and
four in Cambodia.
Global health officials fear it could mutate into a strain that could rival
the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic that killed between 20 and 40 million people.
"Experiments show the efficiency rate of the newly developed vaccines in
preventing infection by the H5N1 virus is 100 percent," Chen Hualan, director of
the China National Bird Flu Reference Laboratory, was quoted as saying in an
China's Ministry of Agriculture had given its approval, and a sales permit,
for the vaccines, Xinhua said, without mentioning whether the treatments had
been evaluated outside the country.
The agency said supplies of the new vaccines had already been sent to
far-flung western Qinghai province, where China has been scrambling to contain
its first breakout since late 2004 after 178 geese were found dead of the H5N1
virus on May 4.
Health departments in the provincial capital Xining and prefectures around
the province had been mobilized to prevent the spread of the disease, Xinhua
quoted Ai Keyuan, an official with the provincial health bureau, as saying.
Local departments were being told how to dispose of bird droppings and
hospitals in the affected county had opened separate departments for screening
patients with fever and to observe people who had close contact with the birds.
"All hospitals have been told to set up a task force and put aside medication
and facilities for the treatment of any avian flu cases that might be detected,"
The new vaccines also prevented the spread of avian flu from migratory birds
to waterfowl, which could easily pass the disease to domesticated birds, Xinhua
China was willing to provide technical anti-epidemic support to other
countries and poultry farms in Vietnam had begun experimenting with the Chinese
vaccines, it said.
"Time is running out to prepare for the next pandemic," said Michael
Osterholm, of the University of Minnesota, on Wednesday in a special section of
the journal Nature devoted to avian flu.
"There is a critical need for comprehensive medical and non-medical pandemic
planning at the ground level that goes beyond what has been considered so far."
Scientists say any bird flu pandemic will likely start in Asia and could kill
New influenza strains have caused pandemics in the past, most recently in
1956-1957 and 1967-1968, killing a combined 4.5 million people.