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Migratory birds pose most serious flu danger
By Wang Zhuoqiong (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-10-27 05:50

Experts called for more efforts to prevent poultry and waterfowl from having contact with migratory birds, in an attempt to lessen the chance of bird flu.

The warnings came after the emergence of the latest bird flu outbreaks in Hunan and Anhui on Tuesday.

"It is hard to monitor and control migratory birds," said Zhang Zhengwang, a professor at the College of Life Science of Beijing Normal University. "But we can prevent fowl and poultry from having contact with them."

Poultry farmers have been told by local governments to keep birds indoors to limit exposure to wild birds.

However, in China domestic animals are often bred in farmer's courtyards, making it difficult to contain the illness.

"Farmers often allow their chickens, ducks and geese to run around their courtyards or nearby ponds," said Zhang.

This allows poultry and waterfowl to mingle with wild birds that carry the bird flu virus, Zhang said.

The expert argued that high risks remain at lake areas in Jiangxi and Hunan, where some migratory birds have already passed through, and others will stay during the winter.

"The wild birds are likely to come into contact with poultry and waterfowl in the provinces' two largest freshwater lakes, Poyang Lake and Dongting Lake," Zhang added.

In Wantang Village in Hunan, almost 700 birds were infected and 545 died in an outbreak on Tuesday.

Establishing more large-scale poultry farms and keeping breeding indoors are the most practical and effective ways to stop the virus from spreading from wild birds to poultry, researchers said.

Alerted by previous bird flu outbreaks, China has increased large-scale poultry farming in recent years.

Statistics from the Ministry of Agriculture show that poultry raised in large-scale farms made up 40 per cent of the total in 2004.

In Taiwan, pet birds have suddenly became less precious for many owners, as fears over the deadly virus increase. Dozens of the pet birds were abandoned at the doors of pet shops or in community parks, the China News Service reported.

The trade of pet birds in Taipei has slumped, with turnover down on average 10 per cent. Some shops have closed down.

(China Daily 10/27/2005 page2)

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