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China reports 5 more bird flu cases in fowl
(Agencies via Xinhua)
Updated: 2004-02-06 09:49

China yesterday confirmed five more cases of bird flu in fowl, one in a new province, and said four more suspected outbreaks of the disease had been detected.

Four cases were confirmed in the eastern province of Anhui and one was determined in Jiangxi Province, where no previous cases of bird flu had been confirmed, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.

One suspected case each was also found in Jiangxi and Yunnan Provinces and two in the province of Guangdong.

The latest figures mean that the country has 32bird flu outbreaks, including 10 confirmed ones and 22 suspected ones, in 13 mainland regions.

So far, no cases of human infection of bird flu have been reported and bird flu has been brought under control in areas hit by the disease on the Chinese mainland, Vice Health Minister Wang Longde said at a press conference in Beijing yesterday.

Wang rejected rumors circulating in recent days of human cases, saying they were groundless and that there was no attempt at a cover-up.

"I can say in a responsible way that there is no human infectionin China," Wang said, slowing his words for emphasis.

Added Vice Agriculture Minister Liu Jian, "It is not true that we have this disease (in humans) but did not report it."

While vowing stringent measures to stop the virus before it spreads to people, Liu acknowledged that defenses against bird flu are weak and vulnerable, in parts of China because of the country's size and its developingreporting systems.

Liu promised to boost communication between the central government in Beijing and local officials and vowed to continue paying compensation to farmers whose chickens and ducks were killed to contain the disease.

He said researchers were studying possible virus mutation and that surveillance has been stepped up, especially along the country's borders, where infected poultry might slip in.

The Chinese government is confident in the fight, Liu said.

He acknowledged that "some parts of our animal disease-prevention system are weak and vulnerable, and the public has limited knowledge about the disease and ways to prevent it."

Liu said the sheer size of China and its still-improving disease reporting systems have been drawbacks in the fight.

The poultry population in China is quite big, and production methods are quite diverse.

That has brought us some difficulties in controlling this epidemic,he said. It remains an arduous task for China.

Jia Youling, a poultry expertwith the ministry, urged cautionwhen eating eggs but said there was no cause for serious alarm.

There is a chance that in affected regions eggs may carrybird flu, Jia said. "We suggestthat when eating eggs, they be very well boiled."

Liu said China's previously announced plans to destroy allpoultry in a three-kilometer radius of an "affected locality" were being carried out.

As of Wednesday, more than 1.2 million chickens, ducks and geese had been slaughtered across China to prevent the spread of the disease.

Two new vaccine plants are scheduled to start production soon, Liu said. No human vaccine has been developed for the bird flu now striking much ofAsia, but experts believe that an existing animal vaccine provides at least partial protection from the current strain.

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