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China Steps up Bird Flu Controls
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China is strengthening bird flu prevention and control measures although no new human cases have been reported for over a month, a health official said Monday.

"We are still keeping a close eye on bird flu and have strengthened scientific research and nationwide surveillance," said Ministry of Health (MOH) spokesman Mao Qun'an.

So far, the virus responsible for the non-human infections has shown no signs of mutation, and human-to-human transmission remain unproved in clinical studies, he said.

China has enhanced research in human vaccines and drugs as well, he added.

Monitoring of unexplained pneumonia cases has also been strengthened by the ministry, which requires local health institutes to screen pneumonia cases and report those of unknown causes immediately to health authorities, Mao said.

Meanwhile, the Chinese government continues to work closely with international organizations in fighting bird flu.

China and the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday that they are setting up a center to fight infectious diseases, including influenza.

The center, scheduled to open today at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention of Guangdong Province, will focus on forecasting and monitoring of emerging infectious diseases as well as training and research, the WHO and the MOH said in a joint statement.

"We know from SARS and avian influenza that what happens in one country affects another," Dr Omi, WHO regional director for the western pacific was quoted as saying. "China is helping WHO and the world implement lessons learned from recent emerging infectious diseases for the national, regional and global public health good."

The center will become a training base in Guangdong and other southern provinces of China and might expand to become a training center for neighboring countries.

It will also work with the Guangdong CDC laboratory to detect emerging infectious diseases and carry out epidemiological research and study the origin of diseases that can be spread from animals, it said.

Last week, China joined in a pandemic response exercise in prevention and control of bird flu organized by the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), which aimed to test the preparations of the organization's members for an epidemic in terms of information sharing, technological support and prevention of cross-border spread.

Mao reiterated that the public should stay away from sick or dead poultry.

China has reported 18 cases of human infection of bird flu since last November with 12 fatalities. The last case was confirmed on April 27.

Globally, 225 human infections, including 128 deaths, have been recorded by WHO, according to the WHO website.

At the 59th World Health Assembly held in late May, members agreed on a resolution to voluntarily implement the WHO's International Health Regulations a year earlier than scheduled in the field of flu pandemic prevention.

In the resolution, WHO members agreed to give transparent and urgent notice of any probable or confirmed human cases of bird flu, and pledged to provide financial and other assistance to governments that lack the means to respond to an avian or pandemic-type flu outbreak.

(Xinhua News Agency June 13, 2006)


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