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China step up efforts in bird flu fight
By Wang Zhenghua (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-10-21 05:44

After the case near Hohhot, Inner Mongolia, was detected, China has culled more than 91,000 birds within a 3-kilometre radius of the farm, and imposed a 21-day quarantine on poultry in the areas, said Aphaluck Bhatiasevi, Communications Officer of the World Health Organization (WHO) Beijing Office.

"As of Wednesday, we haven't seen further outbreaks or human infections," Bhatiasevi told China Daily.

She said China responded to the outbreak swiftly even though it would take time to be sure that the situation was under control.

China has been working on plans to deal with the virus even before bird flu began spreading to Europe and Africa, causing widespread panic.

Apart from "strong political commitments," Bhatiasevi said she has seen many positive signs.

A week ago, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Agriculture said they would set up a joint mechanism to curb the spread of the disease and prescribed measures on inspection, monitoring and reporting.

In Shanghai, authorities are monitoring entry-exit points and the quarantine department has banned imports of poultry products from bird flu-stricken countries.

"We are putting more efforts into vaccine and detection research," Ministry of Health spokesman Mao Qun'an said yesterday.

"And we are striving to detect the outbreak and respond as soon as possible," he said.

Shanghai Roche Pharmaceuticals Ltd - maker of Tamiflu - said yesterday that it already collaborates, and is seeking further tie-ups, with companies worldwide to speed up production of Tamiflu.

But Xu Chao, a Roche media officer in Shanghai, said: "It is highly unlikely that we can fulfil large Tamiflu orders at short notice." China, which does not currently produce any Tamiflu, needs to import the drug, she said.

While current flu vaccines offer no protection against bird flu, lab and animal experiments have shown that Tamiflu appears effective.
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