Following reports of bird flu in the US state of Delaware, China has banned imports of poultry products from the United States.
At the same time, the country is stepping up it's monitoring of migratory birds.
In a joint notice, the Ministry of Agriculture and the country's quarantine agency yesterday suspended new import permits for US fowl and cancelled any permits already issued.
US poultry products that arrived after February 7 but have not gone through customs declaration and inspection procedure will be destroyed or returned.
Only products verified as being free of the bird flu virus will be allowed to enter China, the notice said.
The Ministry of Agriculture has also asked local authorities to monitor the habits and habitats of migratory birds to prevent the spread of the avian influenza virus that continues to move across the world.
Migratory wild birds are a much-feared carrier of the virus. Many of them have begun to return to Southeast Asia and south China as the weather gets warmer.
The ministry asked medical staff to disinfect the habitats of the migratory birds, collect their excrement and sanitize it.
Poultry raisers were reminded to segregate flocks from wild birds, vaccinate waterfowl and prevent them from going to watering areas inhabited by migrant birds or touching secretions and feathers of the wild birds.
In addition, the ministry said waterfowl, such as ducks and geese, should be separated from chickens. And birds must be kept far away from livestock, including pigs.
China confirmed H5N1 infections in poultry in four previously suspected outbreaks.
The confirmed bird flu cases are in Dongxiang County in east China's Jiangxi Province, Wujiagang District of Yichang in central Hubei Province, Guandu District of Kunming and the No. 12 Agricultural Division of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps.
No human cases have been reported in China, although 19 people have died from the disease in Thailand and Viet Nam in weeks.
By Tuesday, zoologists had failed to detect bird flu virus in black-headed gulls that migrate from Siberia to Kunming, capital of southwest China's Yunnan Province, each winter.
Yang Zhimin, an official in charge of bird flu control and prevention in the province, said a laboratory in Kunming, which tests tropical and subtropical animals for viruses, has tested the birds' blood serum, saliva and excrement and has not detected any H5 type of virus.
The laboratory has been closely monitoring migratory birds since bird flu outbreaks were first reported in Viet Nam, said Zhang Nianzu, a researcher with the lab.
Known in China as red-beaked gulls, black-headed gulls first appeared in Kunming in 1985, and about 30,000 of the species fly there every winter.
In northwestern Shaanxi Province, as many as 250 ibis -- a rare bird on the list of most endangered species in China -- have been resettled to the remote Qinling Mountains to protect them from the bird flu epidemic, officials with the local forestry administration said Tuesday.
The ibis formerly lived in a wildlife care center in the local Zhouzhi County and the ibis protection station in the Yangxian County. Yangxian is about 100 kilometers from the Chang'an District of Xi'an, which was confirmed as being affected by the deadly H5N1 virus strain on February 8.
(China Daily February 11, 2004)