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China tightens bird-flu measures further
(AP/China Daily)
Updated: 2005-11-22 07:17

China ordered already strict anti-bird flu measures tightened on Monday following two new outbreaks in poultry, while Romania said it would destroy 2,000 farm birds after finding the virus in hens and North Korea tightened border controls.

"There is a growing threat to human health," Yin Chengjie, a deputy Chinese agriculture minister, said at a news conference.

China issued strict new rules on reporting animal epidemics as it said deadly bird flu had been detected in two new locations, bringing the total number of confirmed outbreaks in the country over the past month to 17.
A health worker sprays disinfectant at a village in Xiaoyi, North China's Shanxi Province November 20, 2005. The region reported a bird flu outbreak last week. [Xinhua]

Yin warned that the disease's virulence, or its ability to cause illness, appeared to be increasing. He pointed to rising numbers of cases in ducks and geese, while earlier outbreaks were limited to chickens.

"It shows the increasing virulence of avian influenza," he said.

Yin and other officials announced new rules requiring local Chinese officials to set up disease-warning networks and to stockpile disinfectant and other emergency supplies. Officials who fail to pinpoint and report outbreaks quickly face firing or jail.

The regulations, approved by the State Council and published yesterday in major Chinese media, provide a "strong legal means" to shore up the country's drive to control and stamp out such major outbreaks as bird flu, Yin said.

Although the document mainly targets bird flu, Yin said it also applies to other animal contagions like foot-and-mouth disease.

It prescribes that veterinary authorities at various levels should have contingency plans, details the role of emergency response offices and specifies procedures for epidemic surveillance, information gathering and reporting.

According to the new regulations:

No one except the competent veterinary authorities under the State Council can release information on major animal epidemics. Information will be provided in an accurate and timely manner.

The responsibilities of forestry and veterinary departments in jointly monitoring the source of terrestrial wild animal epidemics are set forth.

Any act of delaying or failing to report an outbreak, or concealing the real situation, will be severely dealt with.

In case of a major animal epidemic, different measures including culling, disinfection, quarantine and closure of animal product markets must be applied to different areas based on how far they are away from the infected site.

Servicemen and police should support the epidemic control work.

In case an animal outbreak is likely to infect humans, health departments should monitor vulnerable people and adopt preventive and control measures in the afflicted areas. Health and veterinary authorities should share information in a timely fashion.

Cao Kangtai, director of the State Council Legal Affairs Office, yesterday said the regulations summarize China's expertise and experience in combating major animal epidemics in recent years.
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