Speech by Jia youling, chief veterinary officer and director general of the Bureau of Animal Health of the Ministry of Agriculture

November 10, 2006

Ladies and gentlemen,

Good morning.

Recently, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) published an article entitled the Emergence and Predominance of an H5N1 Influenza Variant in China. Their statements can be summarized as follows: first, a H5N1 virus variant (Fujian-like) was isolated in southern China; second, vaccines widely used in China are not efficacious in preventing this virus; third, 5 human infection cases in southern China were causes by this virus; fourth, this virus has already transmitted to and resulted in outbreak in poultry in Laos, Malaysia and Thailand. It might lead to a new outbreak wave of Avian Influenza in Southeast Asia and even in Eurasia. But in fact, there is no such a new “Fujian-like” virus variant at all. It is utterly groundless to assert that the outbreak of bird flu in Southeast Asian countries was caused by AI in China and there would be a new outbreak wave in the world. The data cited in the article were unauthentic and the research methodology was not based on science. Therefore, their arguments are not tenable and are totally against the facts. International organizations including FAO and WHO, share similar views with China on this article. However, Guan Yi’s article did mislead some countries and regions.

I’d like to take this opportunity today to brief you the current epidemic situation and control of HPAI in the mainland.

In 2006, as of this date, 10 poultry cases of HPAI outbreak were confirmed in 7 provinces. In total, there were 90,000 affected birds with 47,000 dead and 2.94 million birds culled. 3,641 migratory birds died in Qinghai and Tibet. According to the report of the Ministry of Health, 20 human cases have been confirmed since 2005, among which 7 cases were confirmed in 2005 and 13 cases in 2006.

From January to October 2006, our national veterinary services tested 4.501 million samples, including 305 thousand pathogenic samples, from poultry, pigs, wild birds, domesticated rare birds, etc. We tested 271 thousand pathogenic samples of poultry, among which 25 were positive, coming from provinces of Yunnan, Guangdong and Xinjiang. 16 of 15 thousand wild bird pathogenic samples were positive, coming from provinces of Liaoning, Qinghai and Tibet. 19 thousand pathogenic samples of pigs were all negative. The Ministry of Agriculture organized the Chinese Center for Animal Disease Control, China Animal Health and Epidemiology Center and the National Avian Influenza Reference Laboratory to collect and test samples in affected areas and habitat areas of migratory birds. 32,412 serological samples and 22,249 pathogenic samples were tested. Among those, 6 pathogenic samples from Shanxi and Ningxia were positive. All the poultry with positive result and those in the same flock were culled and disposed in bio-safety way.

The Chinese government attaches great importance to the prevention and control of HPAI. Leaders of the central government including President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao, on many occasions, made important instructions to step up our control efforts. The State Council and the National HPAI Prevention Headquarters have held frequent meetings and made due arrangements for prevention and control. Agricultural and public health departments and local governments have firmly adhered to the central government’s guideline of “strong leadership, sound coordination, reliance on science and law, participatory approach, decisive intervention” to fully carry out all the control measures.

First, amplify laws and regulations and improve the emergency response mechanism. Efforts have been made to further improve contingency plan, implementation plan and epidemic intervention technical plan. The Ministry of Agriculture and veterinary services at various levels have established emergency response forces, carried out emergency response training and practice, built up material stock, so as to improve the emergency response capacity.

Second, stick to the policy of putting prevention first and build a solid and reliable shield. By the end of 2005, a full-scale AI vaccination policy was implemented in the mainland of China. The Ministry of Agriculture formulated and launched corresponding vaccination plan in a timely manner, providing guidance for scientific and regulated vaccination. In 2006, the Ministry of Agriculture organized concentrated vaccination programs in spring and summer, and the efficacy was examined by national veterinary services. The vaccination intensity of domesticated poultry exceeded 95 percent according to data collected from January to October 2006.

Third, establish and improve nation-wide animal epidemic reporting network and surveillance mechanism. Efforts would be made to establish and improve animal disease monitoring and reporting system, including the four-level national animal disease surveillance and reporting stations at the central, provincial, prefecture and county levels, animal monitoring stations at borders and village-level epidemic inspectors and reporters. 2,800 counties have connected with the Ministry of Agriculture through computer networking to transmit the epidemic information without delay. Disease will be reported upon its detection. Meanwhile, we have enhanced the effort to verify the reported cases. In 2006, over 110 disease reports were received, all of which were looked into immediately.

Fourth, timely and decisive intervention prevents the spreading of the epidemic. The Ministry of Agriculture continues the taskforce mechanism for major animal diseases, with 6 taskforces strengthening their supervision of the prevention work in different localities. This year, the Ministry of Agriculture has dispatched 130 superintending taskforces with altogether 270 persons/times to examine and guide the HPAI prevention and control effort of local authorities, and provide disease disposal support. The Ministry of Health implements a strict reporting system of unexplained pneumonia cases, and tries the best to rescue patients. The Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Health collaborated with each other closely, organize timely epidemiological investigation, analyze and try to track the causes and channels of human infection of HPAI.

Fifth, fortify scientific research for major breakthroughs, improve technical level of HPAI prevention and control. The Ministry of Agriculture has organized the National Avian Influenza Reference Laboratory and other research institutes to follow and monitor the mutation of HPAI viruses; carry out research and development of diagnostic kits and vaccines for timely use in the prevention and control work of HPAI and other major animal diseases. Vaccines targeting different virus strains have been stocked to deal with any possible mutations.

Sixth, strengthen international exchange and regional cooperation to jointly combat HPAI. China made timely communication to international organizations on our epidemic situation; invited experts from international organizations to visit China. Chinese government has hosted a series of international meetings, including the International Pledging Conference on Avian and Human Influenza; and provides technical and material support to some related countries.

Under the correct leadership of CPC Central Committee and State Council, government agencies at different levels put the prevention first; implement the HPAI control policy of the State Council of “strong leadership, sound coordination, reliance on science and law, participatory approach, decisive intervention”. Our HPAI prevention and control work is carried out effectively, orderly and efficiently, and significant outcome has been achieved for this phase. Since 2004, we have eradicated 91 cases of bird flu in the mainland right at the spot without any spread or extension. We have taken active prevention measures and strengthened our surveillance efforts to successfully prevent the transmission of AI from migratory birds in Qinghai and Tibet to domesticated poultry and human and to successfully block the introduction of AI in neighboring countries into China.

That’s it for my briefings. My colleagues and I would like to answer questions from the floor.