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Two New Bird Flu Outbreaks

Two new H5N1 avian influenza outbreaks, the twelfth and thirteenth amongst poultry in China since October 19, were confirmed yesterday, while WHO experts emphasized the importance of public awareness in preventing and controlling further human infections.

The virus is believed to have killed 662 farm birds in Xiaonan District, Xiaogan City in the central province of Hubei on November 5, and 32 chickens in Hotan Prefecture of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region on November 10, the Ministry of Agriculture said in a statement last night.

In Xinjiang, quarantine workers detected sick chickens at a local market and traced the source only to find that dozens of poultry had already been infected, according to the ministry.

Both areas have implemented contingency measures, including culls of 86,215 birds in Xinjiang and 2,722 in Hubei within 3 kilometers of outbreak sites.

It is Xinjiang's third outbreak this month, and Hubei's second.

WHO officials completing a visit to central China's Hunan Province, where one of two confirmed human cases plus another two possible took place, also said yesterday that the general public should be aware of symptoms to ensure early reporting of further suspected human infections.

"Public education and awareness is very important," Julie Hall, WHO's epidemic alert and response coordinator in China, told Xinhua News Agency in Changsha, the provincial capital.

She said rapid reporting was essential so that infections could be reduced and areas disinfected if a bird flu outbreak occurred.

Other key areas that need strengthening include trying to reduce panic and encouraging people to report and seek healthcare if they have contact with sick poultry, she said.

She said the WHO will continue to assist China in curbing outbreaks.

(Xinhua News Agency November 18, 2005)

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