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Poultry inspections increased
04-02-2004
2004/02/04

With the human death toll from the bird flu outbreak rising to 15 in neighbouring countries Wednesday, China is scrambling to stop the spread of avian influenza by stepping up culling of poultry, market inspections and vehicle checks.

The country yesterday slaughtered more chickens and implemented compulsory vaccination in two more areas -- Guandu District of Kunming, Yunnan's capital and Gaolan County of Northwest China's Gansu Province, where suspected outbreaks of bird flu cases have been found.

The Ministry of Agriculture yesterday confirmed a previously suspected outbreak of the H5N1 strain of avian influenza in Chenggong County in Yunnan Province, Southwest China.

With the new report, China now has five confirmed cases and 18 suspected cases in a total of 12 regions spanning the Chinese mainland.

Minister of Agriculture Du Qinglin yesterday assured two United Nations organizations that the bird flu situation in China is now basically under control, and that China can do a good job of preventing the spread of the highly contagious virus.

He told the representatives of the China offices of World Health Organization (WHO) and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) that China is willing to improve its current mechanism on reporting the situation to the UN organizations, and expand its co-operation with them and other countries in the fight against the disease.

But Thailand, which has reported 19 suspected cases, confirmed its fifth death from the H5N1 virus yesterday.

Viet Nam reported its 10th bird flu death yesterday, a 17-year-old woman. All 15 deaths in Asia so far are believed to have resulted from direct contact with infected poultry.

Enhanced checks

To prevent people from getting infected with the bird flu virus, China's Ministry of Health yesterday asked local health authorities to start daily inspections of markets.

Such efforts will focus on quarantine checks of live poultry or poultry meat sold in markets, separating stalls selling live animals from other food or products, and inspecting the sanitation and disinfection of those markets.

The ministry has also asked local health authorities to set up hotlines for the public and deal immediately with the complaints about suspected illegal production and sale of poultry meat.

As for transportation, only animals, including poultry, with quarantine certification may be transported by rail, the Ministry of Railways said.

The railway sector has started an around-the-clock bird flu reporting system as of Tuesday, according to ministry sources.

Under the system, railway station workers have begun inspecting baggage from affected areas.

The Ministry of Communications yesterday also said it will make every effort to ensure that bird flu will not be spread from specific vessels and vehicles. For one thing, buses coming from bird flu-contaminated areas are subject to strict disinfectant measures.

In Beijing, the city's largest road passenger transport company -- Beijing Long-Distance Passenger Transport Co -- has resumed daily disinfection for all of its vehicles and bus stations.

Rare bird species

Forestry authorities have also moved to save China's rare and endangered species of birds, particularly those breeding in captivity, from being infected by avian flu.

The State Forestry Administration (SFA) yesterday issued a circular suspending display and visitation of rare and endangered species of birds, especially those listed among the extremely endangered species like ibis and cranes.

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