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China steps up bird flu surveillance
Updated: 2005-10-21 20:12

China stepped up surveillance procedures against bird flu and vowed to fully cooperate with the international community as it considered an emergency stockpile of anti-flu drugs.

A Thai livestock official tests a duck at a farm in Nakhon Prathom province, south of Bangkok, on Wednesday. A farmer died from bird flu after contact with infected poultry, taking the country's death toll from the virus to 13, Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said yesterday.

A senior Chinese official warned Thursday that the country faced a "grave" threat from avian flu after reporting its first outbreak in two months, at a farm in Inner Mongolia where 2,600 birds died, with 91,000 culled.

Health Minister Gao Qiang met with David Nabarro, the United Nations envoy tasked with monitoring the advance of avian flu around the world, in Beijing and pledged full transparency and cooperation.

"The international community needs to cooperate fully to protect the health of the world's people, and create an efficient united front to battle the international spread of influenza," he was cited as saying on the ministry website.

"The Chinese health ministry is willing to strengthen cooperation and communication with the United Nations and World Health Organisation ...

"To step up a transparent, timely, accurate and all-around communication on epidemic diseases, and ... improve the surveillance technology and networks of Chinese laboratories."

Gao will travel to Canada and Japan from Saturday to attend bird flu meetings.

In a sign of China's willingness to cooperate, it signed a deal Friday with Hong Kong and Macau health officials to coordinate responses to outbreaks of infectious disease such as bird flu.

Under the agreement, all three sides must immediately inform each other when any major health emergency occurs. A joint response team has also been formed to handle any crisis.

President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao have issued a directive for an all-out effort to prevent the spread of the virus, Xinhua news agency said.

At a State Council meeting, Vice Premier Hui Liangyu called for government departments to focus on prevention and improve emergency mechanisms to deal with any outbreaks.

"The risks of the outbreak of the disease should not be overlooked, and the arduousness and the complex nature of the work involved should never be underestimated," he said.

In Shanghai, quarantine authorities have banned imports of poultry products from bird flu-stricken countries and regions and are destroying any that arrive, Xinhua said.

The country, meanwhile, is pondering stockpiling the anti-flu drug Tamiflu in case the virus mutates into a strain transmitted from human to human, the China Daily reported.

"We are putting more and more efforts into vaccine and detection research," said health ministry spokesman Mao Qun'an.

China has battled at least four outbreaks of bird flu this year, although there have been no human infections so far.

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