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Bird flu restrictions eased at first site
By Meng Yan (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-02-23 07:40

China Sunday for the first time eased restrictions on the movement of people and poultry near a town stricken by the deadly H5N1 strain of avian flu.

In addition, agricultural ministry officials said the epidemic is expected to turn from high incidence to gradual control in this country.

No new suspected bird flu cases have been reported in China since last Tuesday.

Tang Bowen, magistrate of Long'an County in South China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, announced yesterday morning the ending of the isolation imposed on the county's Dingdang Town, where the first case of bird flu on the Chinese mainland was found last month in a local duck farm.

"I want to express my gratitude to those who cared for and helped us," said Huang Shengde, owner of the duck farm in question. "I will continue to raise ducks as soon as it is safe to do so, but I must handle vaccinations work carefully."

The local government slaughtered 14,000 fowls within a 3-kilometre radius of the duck farm, and vaccinated all poultry within 5 kilometres of the duck farm. The area had been closed off under animal epidemic prevention laws.

The quarantine-lifting decision was made after thorough examinations from Chinese agricultural experts. Four other areas afflicted with bird flu are being checked for whether similar decisions can be made, according to the China National Avian Influenza Prevention Headquarters officials.

An important criterion to judge the bird flu situation is comparing the number of regions moving out of isolation with the number of newly confirmed epidemic regions, said Jia Youling, a spokesman for bird flu control with the Ministry of Agriculture.

The ministry received a report from Guangxi that no new bird flu cases had been discovered or confirmed for a succession of more than 21 days since the last poultry in the affected area of the town was slaughtered.

Though bird flu hit 16 Chinese provincial areas, the epidemic failed to spread further and no bird flu hybrid passed among people, he said.

However, he stressed, isolation lifting is not in itself a sign that everything is okay in the region. Some compulsory measures are still in effect. Former poultry farms are allowed to resume operation six months after the isolation lifting.

It usually takes at least 21 days from the outbreak of the epidemic to the lifting of isolation. It is based on the incubation period of a virus set by international organizations on animal health.

"We are not going to relax our vigilance after the lifting of the quarantine," said the town's head Lin Yi. "More work still needs to be done to improve our epidemic-control mechanisms to prevent any resurgence of the disease."

Gan Qiangzhong, deputy magistrate of the county, said yesterday that life in Dingdang is normal, and the farmers are starting to plan spring ploughing.

The government has taken measures to reduce the tax burden on poultry producers and cancel or reduce the levels of certain charges and fees collected from poultry businesses, which have been hard hit by the bird flu epidemic.

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