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Nation urged to stay on alert against bird flu
By Zhao Huanxin (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-12-15 06:10

The fight against bird flu is not over, China's chief veterinary official warned yesterday, even though the country has not suffered a new outbreak for two weeks and 23 of the 30 affected areas have been lifted out of epidemic isolation.

Despite initial success, sporadic cases are likely to emerge in winter and next spring, which means infection control is still a challenge, Jia Youling told a press conference in Beijing.

"Winter and spring are peak seasons for bird flu, and 60 per cent of China's domestic birds are raised on backyard farms with inadequate management, making epidemic prevention difficult," said Jia, also chief of the Bureau of Animal Health under the Ministry of Agriculture.

Frequent transfer of poultry during New Year's Day and Spring Festival, which comes at the end of January, will make it easy for contagions to spread between regions, he said, adding epidemics elsewhere in Asia also pose a threat.

"In the face of the complicated epidemic situation, we are fully capable of effectively containing the spread of bird flu in China," Jia said.

Bird flu has killed 151,200 birds and another 22 million were destroyed to stop the spread of outbreaks, according the latest ministry statistics.

So far this year, China has vaccinated 6.85 billion birds, 5 billion of them since October, Jia said.

Most of the country's 690,000 rural villages have veterinary workers, who are required to direct local vaccinations, he said.

The country's newly-developed vaccine, which targets both highly pathogenic avian influenza and Newcastle disease, can be administered through water or feed, making the process of vaccinating the birds easier and faster, he noted.

The official stressed that vaccinated birds will not infect other fowls and are safe for consumption. As well as the intensifying vaccinations, China will make sure only safe birds are for sale.

The latest investigation conducted in 19 provinces and municipalities, including Anhui in East China, and Beijing, failed to detect any bird flu virus in cooked poultry products. None of the poultry came from afflicted areas, Ji Zhengkun, an official of the State Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, said yesterday.

Jia also revealed that in the first half of the year China examined 12 laboratories that are possibly involved in research of highly pathogenic microbes.

As a result, three laboratories, including one in Shantou University in southern China, have been penalized.

Countries all have strict regulations and limitations when it comes to research of highly pathogenic microbes, Jia said.

The International Animal Health Code has required that research of highly pathogenic microbes be put under official safety control, according to Jia.

The three laboratories failed to meet both national and international requirements, Jia said.

"Chinese Government has always encouraged and supported veterinary scientists to conduct scientific research, but they must abide by laws and regulations," he said.

(China Daily 12/15/2005 page2)

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