Every village in China shall have an epidemic-monitoring worker next year, to ensure animal disease and death in remote rural areas can be reported and diagnosed in a timely fashion.
A contingency team consisting of experts will be set up under the Ministry of Agriculture to cope with major contagions among livestock.
These actions are among a raft of countermeasures the ministry has worked out for 2006 to effectively control any animal infections, chief veterinary officer Jia Youling said this week.
"As epidemics like bird flu and foot-and-mouth disease are likely to break out sporadically, the situation this winter and next spring still allows for no optimism," he said.
On Friday night, the ministry announced that foot-and-mouth disease had been detected at Changqing District, Jinan, capital of east China's Shandong Province. The epidemic had sickened 48 cattle since December 25 and prompted local veterinary workers to cull another 91.
Epidemic prevention and control could be arduous in 2006, Jia warned.
China reported 31 outbreaks of fatal bird flu among poultry in 2005. In July, streptococcus suis, a pig-borne bacteria, killed 38 people in southwest China's Sichuan Province.
All outbreaks have been stamped out, according to ministry sources.
But avian influenza virulence has become stronger as the virus has killed large flocks of migrating birds and water fowl, which in the past only carried the virus and rarely fell ill, Jia said. It has also infected seven people this year, involving three fatalities.
In addition, risks remain that other animal diseases may transmit to humans, and foreign epidemics such as mad cow disease might make their way into China, Jia warned.
Despite steady efforts to improve preparedness and reinforce prevention efforts in 2005, epidemic control at grassroots level still needs to be strengthened, Jia said.
Therefore, the country will step up training of anti-epidemic workers for townships and villages, and prioritize vaccination against major animal infections in 2006, including bird flu and Newcastle disease for poultry, and foot-and-mouth disease for cattle, pigs and sheep, he said.
Aside from closely monitoring epidemics nationwide, animal disease reporting mechanisms will be further improved in rural communities, according to Jia.
By the end of 2005, China had 635,000 people engaged in monitoring and reporting epidemic situations in villages, but such workers are not available in every village.
"We'll strive to ensure all villages will have monitoring and reporting workers," Jia said.
In emergency responses to outbreaks, the ministry will build an emergency taskforce composed of experts from its affiliated institutions in 2006, and similar contingency teams must be launched at provincial levels, he said.
To improve quality of veterinary drugs, all producers that fail to meet GMP (good manufacturing practice) standards by June 30 will have their licenses revoked, the official said.
Despite the epidemics, China's animal husbandry industry turnover is expected to reach 1,300 billion yuan (US$160 billion) in 2005, a jump of nearly 30 percent from five years ago, according to Shen Zhenzhao, director of the ministry's Animal Husbandry Department.
Intensive farming also gathered steam in 2005. In swine farming, for example, 34 percent of the livestock came from farms that each raised at least 50 pigs. The percentage was 11 points higher than five years ago, Shen said.
(China Daily December 31, 2005)