Fight against the avian influenza, or bird flu, might be tougher than expectation due to a slack public health monitoring and control system in China's rural areas, where the epidemic usually takes place, warned a member to the country's top advisory body on Friday.
"It might be more difficult to prevent and control bird flu than the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). Proactive efforts should be beefed up in this regard," said Feng Lida while attending the ongoing session of the 10th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC).
The 80-year-old Feng compared bird flu with SARS in many ways.
SARS usually appears in urban areas and infects human beings while the bird flu epidemic mainly pesters countryside and hits poultry. A more developed public health surveillance system in cities is very much likely to detect SARS at an early stage and prevent the disease from spreading further.
However, the country's vast rural areas still lack a full-fledged mechanism in response to public health crisis such as bird flu. Meanwhile, spotting animal diseases is far more difficult than detecting human ailments.
The distinguished immunologist called the fight against bird flu "an inescapable challenge". She also stressed the importance of strengthening communications between public health and agriculture departments in curbing bird flu, a major threat to poultry breeding industry.
"A long-term, effective prevention and control system is urgently needed in China to combat acute epidemics and it is stupid to make the effort in the last minute," said Feng.
A special bird flu lab and an information-sharing channel between the agricultural and public health spheres should be established as soon as possible, according to Feng, daughter of Chinese patriotic military leader Feng Yuxiang.
(Xinhua News Agency March 4, 2005)