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China Claims Initial Victory over Bird Flu

The Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) has declared success in the first stage of the fight against highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), or bird flu.


Jia Youling, MOA spokesman for HPAI Control, made the announcement on Tuesday at a press conference sponsored by the State Council Information Office.


Quarantine was lifted Tuesday from affected areas in Nanning, south China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, and Lhasa, capital of southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region. All 49 areas affected since the first outbreak was confirmed on January 27 have now been cleared, said Jia.


No new cases in birds have been reported in the past 29 days, nor have there been any cases of human infection, the MOA spokesman stressed.


Bird flu hit 16 provinces, municipalities, autonomous regions in China between January 27 and March 16. The central authorities reacted promptly, establishing the National HPAI Prevention and Control Headquarters, Jia said.


During the campaign, China worked together with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and had assistance from the FAO, WHO and other international organizations.


The Ministry of Commerce has provided US$450,000 in aid for the six ASEAN countries, while the MOA has provided bird flu prevention materials to Vietnam and Thailand, he said.


China promised the member nations to open the state bird flu reference laboratory and help them to train technicians. ASEAN countries will provide virus strains and gene sequencing to China.


China also provided four living virus strains to the WHO. These have been separated in Hong Kong and will be helpful in producing a human-use vaccine.


Meanwhile, the country has cooperated with ASEAN to establish joint epidemic reporting and technical cooperation systems.


Nevertheless, the spokesman said, the situation remains grave. Because the disease still exists in some countries near China, the risk of it reentering China via migratory birds or transport of domestic fowl remains. Aggravating the situation is the fact that many places in China still suffer from very poor conditions for disease control.


Vigilance must be maintained, said the spokesman, and no effort should be spared in preventing and controlling the disease.


The Ministry of Agriculture calls on animal husbandry and veterinary authorities to follow up with the plans of the National HPAI Prevention and Control Headquarters and report on their experiences of the past few weeks to assist in combating the epidemic.


(China.org.cn March 16, 2004)

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