Home>News Center>China

China to shut borders if struck by bird flu
(The Observer)
Updated: 2005-10-23 09:18

China will shut its borders if there is a single case of human-to-human transmission of bird flu in the country, its deputy health minister has said.

As bird flu entered Britain yesterday with the discovery of the virus in a parrot in quarantine, Huang Jiefu said saving lives would be Beijing's main priority even if it meant a slowdown in the economy.

A Chinese woman feeds her ducks and geese at a market in Shanghai, China October 20, 2005.
A Chinese woman feeds her ducks and geese at a market in Shanghai, China October 20, 2005. [Reuters]

His warning came as finance specialists predicted that a flu pandemic could devastate Asian economies. The Asian Development Bank said a mild outbreak would cost the region up to $110 billion (£62bn) in reduced consumption, investment and trade. A more severe outbreak would lead to global recession.

Bird flu has killed 60 people in four south-east Asian countries and has led to the deaths of tens of millions of birds since 2003. A flu pandemic would be triggered if the lethal H5N1 strain mutated into a form that could jump from human to human.

Yesterday the bank announced it would provide $58 million (£33m) in grants to help combat the disease before it spreads. 'Many economic activities would be brought to a halt, while the health systems of most countries would be overwhelmed,' a spokesperson said.

In Britain, it was revealed that 20,000 doctors will receive emergency training on how to deal with a pandemic. The course, to teach doctors how to spot symptoms, provide quick treatment and ensure infection control, will be rolled out by the Health Protection Agency in the next few weeks.

A spokeswoman for the HPA said the organisation would provide the training through Doctors.net.uk, a website accessed by 85 per cent of doctors.

The biggest risk to Britain would be if the virus mutated - most likely in Asia - and was then spread by international travellers. Even if China was to close its borders, said Britain's Chief Medical Officer, it would not be enough to stop a pandemic from coming to Britain. Sir Liam Donaldson told The Observer: 'The modelling work we have done does suggest that the most time we might buy with it is a couple of weeks.'

He said preventing the spread by blocking borders would only work if we grounded every flight in the world - a highly unrealistic option. A ban would be particularly difficult, he added, if the mutation occurred in a major travel hub such as Singapore or Hong Kong.

'One of the cases of Sars which we had in the UK was a person who came in with it and had done seven different flights between countries before arriving here. You have these highly complex travel patterns now.'

While Donaldson said that it was unlikely that Britain would need to take drastic steps such as closing borders and using quarantine, the government's recently updated contingency plans do allow for serious measures if the pandemic assumes 'nightmare' proportions. In the worst case scenario schools could be closed, people prevented from moving and airports shut.

But health officials said such a catastrophic scenario was extremely remote and stressed the UK was well positioned to ensure that the threat of bird flu was contained. 'It's simply a matter of keeping our options open. It's unlikely we would have to go down that route,' said a spokeswoman for the Department of Health.

Donaldson also sought to reassure the public about food safety.

He said: 'We know that there have been a huge number of questions about the safety of chickens, and of eating chicken. It is as safe as ever, but people are worried about it. That's a concern we do need to address.'

The Food Standards Agency stated: 'Avian flu does not pose a food safety risk for UK consumers. For people, the risk of catching the disease comes from being in close contact with live poultry that have the disease, and not through eating cooked poultry or eggs.'

Old building demolished in Shanghai
Plowing in the Tian'anmen Square
Shenzhou VI re-entry capsule opened in Beijing
  Today's Top News     Top China News

Military opens material procurement website



New law to strengthen energy security



China cuts income tax for low wage earners



A true story about Taishi village incident



Women's hearts offer clues to markets



Measures to contain increase in foreign debt


  China to shut borders if struck by bird flu
  China cuts income tax for low wage earners
  Military opens material procurement website
  New law to strengthen energy security
  Measures to contain increase in foreign debt
  Paper seeks wider heritage protection
  Go to Another Section  
  Story Tools  
  Related Stories  
Hungary bird flu vaccine effective - health minister
Bird flu found in Britain, Croatia
China steps up bird flu surveillance
UN expert says bird flu "deeply embedded" in Asia
China step up efforts in bird flu fight
Thailand confirms 13th bird flu death
2,600 birds dead of bird flu in China
  News Talk  
  It is time to prepare for Beijing - 2008