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Optimism increases in epidemic battle
(China Daily)
Updated: 2005-12-23 06:29

With 30 out of 31 outbreak sites lifted out of epidemic isolation, China's aggressive preventive measures appear to be bearing fruit.

Chief Veterinary Officer Jia Youling told China Daily yesterday the country's intensive vaccination efforts have paid dividends, as shown in the eradication of the deadly strain of the bird flu virus in its most afflicted region Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

"In the case of Xinjiang, we intensified inoculation of birds in November especially on fowls that might have been spared shots earlier as compared with what we did in October," Jia said.

Consequently, the region now has a clean bill of health, he said.

All nine poultry outbreaks sites in Xinjiang reported since November 15 had lifted quarantine closures by Wednesday, said Xing Qinghua, a spokesman for the region's animal husbandry department.

Xing said Xinjiang will not relent its surveillance and vigilance against bird flu and prevention of other animal diseases, even though the contagion has been stamped out for the time being.

The region will also help poultry raisers restore production by apportioning additional funds, and compensate in time those who sustained losses for the sake of epidemic control, he said.

China's animal epidemic prevention statutes prescribe that a minimum of 21 days of quarantine must be imposed on an epidemic site until a joint inspection team consisting of vets and health prevention specialists find no new infections there.

Yesterday morning, a 24-day quarantine ended in Yongzhou, Central China's Hunan Province, where a bird flu outbreak was reported on November 28.

By yesterday, only Suichuan County in East China's Jiangxi Province, where the fatal H5N1 strain of bird flu virus was confirmed a week ago, remained in isolation.

"In line with relevant State statute, isolation on the last case can expect to be relieved around January 6," a staff member with the ministry's Bureau of Animal Health, who identified himself only as Chen, said yesterday.

China immunized more than 5 billion domestic birds since October, pushing the poultry immunity density average to 85 per cent, according to the ministry's statistics.

Jia said China's experience has shown that increased vaccination plays a crucial role in bird flu epidemic prevention and control.

The official said the country's bird flu control effort yielded initial success on December 14, when China had not reported a new case within half a month.

But he cautioned sporadic cases may come out during the rest of the winter and next spring the peak seasons for the contagion.

He said yesterday the ministry will continue to strengthen market supervision, including promoting sales of slaughtered healthy birds over live poultry, to minimize the risk of spreading infection.
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