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Leaders Urge Vigilance on Bird Flu

President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao have stressed that prevention and control work against bird flu should be conducted effectively based on scientific knowledge and in line with the law, following the confirmation of China's first bird flu cases on Tuesday.


They asked local governments to maintain a high alert against the deadly virus and strengthen monitoring of the H5N1 strain of bird flu after the cases were confirmed in Dingdang Town, Long'an County in south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.


If cases of bird flu are spotted, all the infected poultry must be slaughtered and the affected areas must be sanitized to prevent further spread, they stressed.


They said that local governments should keep the virus within the polluted region and prevent it from spreading to humans to ensure the safety of people.


Local governments across the country have made painstaking efforts to carry out these measures in a coordinated manner to prevent and control bird flu.


Besides stepping up efforts to prevent an outbreak in the nation, China is ready to cooperate with other countries to address the current crisis, Chinese Vice Minister of Agriculture Qi Jingfa said in Bangkok yesterday.


"We are now closely watching the development of the disease, studying on origin of the disease and banning export and import of poultry products from all regions affected by the epidemic," said Qi at an regional ministerial meeting on the current poultry disease situation.


The Guangxi regional government has quarantined certain areas and slaughtered a total of 140,000 poultry in three-kilometer radius as early as January 23, when the duck suspected of being affected was sent to the lab, he said.


The Ministry of Agriculture has made a national plan to prevent the disease and briefed the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations and the World Health Organization (WHO) of the situation, he added. China informed the FAO and WHO of its bird flu epidemic on Tuesday, the day the deadly virus was confirmed.


Soon afterwards, China's Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Health held emergency meetings with FAO officer-in-charge in China Robert Brown and WHO representative in China Henk Bekedam, respectively, notifying them of the latest developments of the epidemic in the country and the measures that had been taken.


After listening to the agriculture ministry's report on the epidemic and the measures the Chinese government had taken in accordance with the country's Law on Animal Epidemic Prevention, Brown thanked the ministry for the timely reporting of the disease and the measures, expressing confidence in China's capability in preventing the epidemic from further spreading.


He said the FAO gave high attention to the development of bird flu in Asia, including China, and stands ready to give China its full support.


After listening to the health ministry's report, Bekedam said China's timely notification demonstrates the Chinese government's openness and transparency in treating the epidemic.


He said China's fight against SARS last year has left the international community with a deep impression, and he believed the Chinese government would do even better now in dealing with the bird flu.


Although the disease has not spread to humans, Bekedam said efforts should be enhanced in containing its transmission from poultry to humans. He pledged the willingness of the WHO to help China in preventing and treating the disease and to further step up the two sides' cooperation.


The ministries of agriculture and health thanked the two international organizations for their support to the Chinese government, and expressed hopes to further strengthen exchanges and cooperation with relevant international organizations in preventing and treating the bird flu.


Huang Shengde, owner of the duck farm which has been confirmed to be hit by bird flu, is now under round-the-clock medical observation. No infections in human beings have been found since the lab confirmed the bird flu case in ducks at the farm.


Government officials have also conducted door-to-door disinfections and asked people not to cultivate poultry in the next 30 days.


In Beijing, the slaughter of poultry in market places and selling uninspected meat and poultry products were banned yesterday, an emergency effort by the local government to safeguard the capital from the bird flu virus.


Liu Jian, vice director of Beijing Municipal Industry and Commerce Bureau, also announced tighter controls and inspection of poultry products entering Beijing from other regions of the country.


(China Daily January 29, 2004)

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