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No new bird flu, vaccination ongoing
(China Daily)
Updated: 2004-02-19 23:24

China Thursday confirmed three previously suspected outbreaks of the H5N1 strain of bird flu, but said there have been no new suspected cases reported on the Chinese mainland since Tuesday.

Bird flu infected regions include Huanggang City in Hubei and Chenzhou City in Hunan, two provinces in central China, and Baicheng City in Northeast China's Jilin Province.

The three suspected cases were confirmed by the National Avian Influenza Reference Laboratory, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.

The local governments have taken measures against the disease by culling poultry in affected areas and imposing prompt quarantine restrictions, said the ministry.

The reference laboratory also excluded three previously suspected outbreaks reported in Anning and Xigu districts in Lanzhou City as well as Jingyuan County located in Northwest China's Gansu Province.

The World Health Organization (WHO) will provide 70,000 flu vaccines to China for high-risk groups in bird flu-infected regions, according to Julie Hall, a Beijing-based WHO infectious disease expert.

Two Chinese experts are taking part in a WHO-sponsored training programme in Thailand, which ends today, on the diagnosis and epidemiology of bird flu. They are expected to bring back a bird flu diagnosis reagent to help in research efforts, she said.

She said the WHO is now working with China on the development of bird flu vaccines for human beings, which may require several months of research and testing. China and the WHO are expected to hold a seminar on the development and production of vaccines for humans against the bird flu.

Chinese scientists are also working hard to analyze the virus and develop effective vaccines under the co-ordination of the Ministry of Science and Technology.

Experts hope to find the cause of the disease, it's epidemiology and new spreading mechanism, according to sources from the ministry of science and technology.

The ministry has decided to allocate 100 million yuan (US$12 million) in special funds for the scientific research of bird flu control and prevention.

So far, Chinese scientists have developed 22 new products and technologies that help control and prevent the deadly virus, including a bird flu vaccine, exposure suits and a disinfecting agent.

China's efforts to control and prevent avian flu have recently won praise from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Laurence Gleeson, consultant and senior animal disease expert with the FAO, has called China's bird flu prevention and control work "appropriate."

While conducting an investigation on Wednesday in Longan County, in South China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, where China's first highly pathogenic H5N1 strain of the bird flu virus case was confirmed, Gleeson said: "On the basis of one investigation, I cannot come to too many conclusions. However, the principles of control of avian influenza appear to be closely followed in this particular case."

Immediately after the outbreak of bird flu, the local government took effective measures, including rapid confirmation of the first case, strict controls of suspect poultry products and compulsory vaccination in high-risk areas, which were highly commended by Gleeson.

"They have done everything," said the expert from the Australian Animal Health Laboratory.

Gleeson, together with Xu Ji, assistant FAO representative to China, conducted their research in the village of Yong'anli, less than 2 kilometres from the site infected with bird flu, investigating the extermination and vaccination of local poultry and related compensation plans.

In another development, the FAO warned on Wednesday that killing wild birds is not an appropriate measure to control the spread of bird flu, which has ravaged domestic poultry farming in nine Asian countries and claimed 20 human lives.

What is needed is a prevention system based on control and surveillance to ensure that any contact between wild birds and poultry is avoided or at least monitored, the Rome-based agency said in a news release.

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