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Bird Flu Jabs for All Chinese Poultry

The Ministry of Agriculture said yesterday that the government will vaccinate China's entire poultry population of 14 billion - a fifth of the world's total - against H5N1 avian influenza during an online question-and-answer session on People.com.cn.

"We are in the process of vaccinating all poultry in the country," said Jia Youling, director-general of the ministry's veterinary bureau, amidst reports of the country's ninth and tenth bird flu outbreaks to be confirmed since October 19.

Jia said central government would cover 50-80 percent of the vaccination costs, according to Xinhua News Agency today.

The ministry confirmed last night that the two new outbreaks, in the counties of Zepu and Urumqi in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, had been confirmed as H5N1 on Monday in dead poultry first found on November 9.

Local health authorities have culled 322,500 chickens within 3 kilometers of the affected areas.

Experts have warned that if China cannot control repeated outbreaks of bird flu, human cases of the disease are inevitable.

The final results of the WHO and Ministry of Health investigation into three suspected cases of human infection in central China's Hunan Province, one of which was fatal, are expected to be made public this week.

A fourth possible human case in the northeastern province of Liaoning is also being followed up.

Roy Wadia, WHO spokesperson in Beijing, was quoted by Xinhua as saying that if a case was confirmed in China "it's not something that's earth-shattering in the grand scheme of things because there are human cases elsewhere."

Over 60 people have died of bird flu in Asia since 2003 and the fatality rate is estimated to be one in two for human infections.

(China Daily, Xinhua News Agency November 16, 2005)

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