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Bird flu ‘out of control’ in Chinese province

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The Chinese government says the spread of the deadly H5N1 bird flu in one of its provinces is not under control and has warned of a potential disaster there. There have been three fresh outbreaks of the avian virus in the north-eastern province of Liaoning in 24 hours, and a new suspected human infection.

And the Middle East has now seen its first definite case of H5N1 bird flu. The authorities in Kuwait have confirmed that a migratory flamingo found on a beach died of the lethal strain. They say another bird suspected of having the virus had the milder H5N2 strain.There have been six outbreaks in the past month in China and the government has responded with mass culls of poultry. The most recent outbreaks, which killed about 1100 chickens, prompted the authorities to cull 670,000 poultry in the areas affected, and place 116 people in quarantine.The outbreaks are being blamed on migratory birds, but the head of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization in Beijing said it was possible that they were due to village-to-village spread of the virus. Counterfeit vaccinesA Chinese agriculture minister has warned that the country faces a “disaster” due to the use of sub-standard and counterfeit poultry vaccines. These can mask symptoms of the virus, making control difficult, or even introduce the virus.Tests on four people suspected to have contracted bird flu are still being carried out, one in Liaoning and three in Hunan province. But the Chinese state news agency Xinhua reports that 121 people from the area in Liaoning who had suspicious symptoms have now been declared not to have the disease by the local health ministry.The highly pathogenic H5N1 virus has killed at least 62 people in Asia and more than 150 million birds since 2003. In its current form, the virus has killed 50% of people known to have contracted the virus. Drug productionTo date, there are no confirmed cases of human-to-human transmission, but experts fear the virus will mutate into a form that can pass easily among people and spark a global pandemic. After a meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, this week health experts unveiled a $1 billion plan to fight bird flu, with assistance from the World Bank.Vietnam, which has suffered 42 human fatalities, more than any other country, is currently treating two more suspected cases. It has announced that it is to begin part-production of the antiviral drug, Tamiflu, after agreeing a licence with Swiss drug company Roche. It is also planning a bird flu hospital near its border with Cambodia.The spread of the virus is expected to increase over the northern hemisphere winter, assisted by the region’s widely held practice of keeping backyard poultry, which make large-scale, thorough culls almost impossible. Indonesia, which has suffered five confirmed human fatalities, has rejected a $10 million international loan, saying it wants grant money instead.(Source: New Scientist: Gaia Vince: November 2005.)

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Posted On: 14 November, 2005
Modified On: 16 January, 2014

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