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First Liaoning Bird Flu Outbreak Controlled

No new cases of avian influenza amongst birds in Heishan County of northeast China's Liaoning Province have been reported in seven consecutive days, signaling that the outbreak there has come under effective control, the local government said today.

Dong Degang, deputy director of the provincial health department, said no human cases have been reported in the county and neighboring areas despite thorough inspections and monitoring of nearly 50,000 people who had had close contact with sick poultry.

In addition, one female chicken farmer who had suffered serious pneumonia and fever but tested negative for the virus, will be discharged from hospital after seven to ten days' observation, said Dong.

The epidemic broke out on October 26 when chickens were found dead on family farms in a village in Badaohao town. It later spread to five other towns in the county and several towns in neighboring Beining City.

The National Avian Flu Reference Laboratory confirmed the virus involved was the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu on November 3.

Affected areas were immediately quarantined, with 30 checking stations and disinfection points set up around them. More than 4,000 armed police and professionals have been mobilized to carry out compulsory poultry slaughtering.

A total of 369,900 family-owned birds within a radius of three kilometers have been culled and more than 300 million vaccinated, and the provincial government had allocated over 191 million yuan (US$23.55 million) as compensation for local farmers by Tuesday.

The local government also sent more than 300 medical workers to the areas to offer free medical checks and vaccinations for farmers.

Heishan is on the East Asia-Australia migratory bird route, and over 20 magpies and other wild birds were also found dead there. Zhou Liyuan, a provincial government spokesperson, said experts believed the outbreak came from migratory birds, which stayed longer than usual in the area due to high temperatures.

Liaoning, which has confirmed three other outbreaks this month, is still on high alert, and the Ministry of Health yesterday confirmed two human cases of H5N1 and one other suspected.

The two cases confirmed were a nine-year-old boy in Xiangtan County of Hunan Province, central China, who has since recovered and a 24-year-old woman farmer in Zongyang County of Anhui Province in the east who died on November 10.

The boy's 12-year-old sister, who had similar symptoms and died on October 17, was suspected to have been infected.

A team of WHO experts who were visiting Hunan with ministry officials this week also met a 36-year-old schoolteacher there yesterday who may also be infected.

They planned to return to Beijing today.

(Xinhua News Agency November 17, 2005)

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