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China reports no human infection from bird flu
Updated: 2004-02-05 16:44

No cases of human infection of bird flu have been reported and bird flu has been brought under control in areas hit by the diseases on the Chinese mainland, agriculture and health ministries said Thursday in a press conference on the avian influenza situations.

Vice Health Minister Wang Longde told the press conference hosted by the Information Office of the State Council that no cases of human infection with the H5N1 strain of bird flu had been reported in the tight surveillance networks of the Ministry of Health.

Vice Agriculture Minister Liu Jian said China had taken a range of measures, including a daily reporting system, to curb the disease.

China had reported five confirmed outbreaks and 18 suspected outbreaks of bird flu by Wednesday, since the first was announced on Jan. 27 in the southern Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.

Wang said the government had stepped up guidelines and supervision concerning bird flu control. The National Avian Influenza Prevention Headquarters had been established and the State Council had worked out contingency plans for nationwide containment.

The Ministry of Agriculture and other ministries had sent more than 10 supervision teams to affected areas to supervise control and culling measures, and guide epidemic prevention. Health authorities were implementing schemes to prevent its transmission to humans, starting epidemic monitoring and adopting precautions to protect human health.

Liu said an avian influenza daily reporting system was fully operational. Complete networks had been developed for disease control and animal surveillance, including 300 surveillance stations directly under the control of the Ministry of Agriculture and 147 disease surveillance points along the borders.

Local government administrations had been requested to report all bird flu cases immediately, and diagnose the disease according to a set of comprehensive technical standards, Liu said. The Ministry of Agriculture had instituted and issued 11 technical regulations.

Local governments and administrative agencies in charge of livestock and veterinary affairs in the key areas were operating as in a state of emergency. According to an urgent circular by the State Council, the heads of local governments would be entirely responsible and liable while following strictly the regulations and they would be held responsible for neglect of their duties, Liu said.

The ministry has ordered immediate, accurate reporting of bird flu cases by local government, said Liu. The ministry had made public in the media the relevant policies and laws on animal epidemics to promote grassroots governments to respond in the way the central authorities required. Meanwhile, 300,000 booklets on bird flu were published and sent to local governments and the public for reference.

Liu said no cover-up or under-reporting of bird flu cases as China had been reported and diagnosed all its bird flu cases in line with the Law on Animal Epidemic Prevention and a series of technical standards. Moreover, the National Bird Flu prevention Headquarters would dispatch five inspection groups to 10 provinces shortly to carry out checks and monitoring work.

According to the Law on Animal Epidemic Prevention, Liu said, emergency measures were in place in the affected areas, including intensified mass culling and compulsory vaccination. All poultry within 3 kilometers around affected sites had been killed and disposed of safely.

Compulsory vaccination was imposed on all the poultry within 5 kilometers around the affected sites according to set standards. Live poultry markets within 10 kilometers had been closed. The affected sites and endangered areas had been disinfected.

The emergency production and storage of vaccines was underway. Two new vaccine plants have been certified by the Ministry of Agriculture, and production would start soon, Liu added.

Liu noted that China reported the developments in time to the China offices of World Health Organization (WHO) and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations.

After the outbreak of avian influenza, the Ministry of Agriculture promptly notified FAO and WHO and answered inquiries from media and foreign embassies to China.

Liu indicated that preventive and control measures would be taken in non-infected areas, putting the principle focus on areas surrounding infected sites, key production regions, key breeding farms, large-scale poultry farms, specialized large poultry-farming households, large transportation households, and large processing households.

Liu also called for rigorous medical monitoring and public education campaigns to prevent bird-to-human transmissions.

Vice Health Minister Wang Longde said his ministry has worked out measures to prevent human transmissions, while experts held that there was little possibility of such transmissions, so long as the H5N1 strain of bird flu is not combined with other viruses of human beings.

Liu said that from Feb. 5, the Ministry of Agriculture would launch the new release system to inform the public of the epidemic situation and provide other relevant information.

Liu said the Chinese government was confident in the fight against the highly pathogenic avian influenza, though it remained an arduous task for the country to prevent and control the disease.

President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao had made instructions on many occasions, and the State Council has organized meetings to hear reports, work out measures and make arrangements for combating the disease, he said.

It is the principal task for governments at various levels in infected areas in China to make concentrated efforts to prevent and bring the highly infectious bird flu epidemic under control, Liu noted.

The vice agriculture minister said the government would improve the compensation policy for culls and compulsory immunization and facilitate access to resources such as funds, vaccines, medicines, equipment and other materials as well as technical measures.

The highly pathogenic avian influenza outbreaks in China have three features. Firstly, they occurred in spots that were widely scattered. Secondly, the situations were more serious in southern China, while outbreaks were reported largely in central, eastern and southern China. Thirdly, the virulence of the virus was relatively strong, said the vice minister.

Besides causing disease and death in large numbers of chickens, the sub-type H5N1 strain that affected the Chinese mainland could also cause disease and death in other poultry such as ducks and geese. In bird flu cases found so far in China, 16 cases involved chickens, five ducks, and two geese.

By Feb. 4, there had been altogether 23 bird flu cases in China: including 18 suspected cases, and five confirmed. China's quality supervision and customs agencies had tightened inspections and quarantine at border ports to prevent the disease spreading further into China, said Liu.

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