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Official: Guangdong Not the Source of Bird Flu
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The Guangdong provincial authorities of agriculture and health yesterday denied foreign researchers claims that the southern province is the source of the dangerous H5N1 avian flu virus.

"The findings, which say Guangdong is the source of multiple avian flu virus strains spreading both regionally and internationally, are the wrong conclusion to the evidence and lack credibility," He Xia, a spokeswoman for the Guangdong Provincial Agricultural Department, told China Daily.

The claim that Guangdong has given birth to bird flu was made by a research team from the University of California Irvine, and published in US journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The findings are based on samples of the virus taken from across China and Russia, and appear to show that the basic version of the virus is a form seen in Guangdong.

They also appear to show that northwest China's Qinghai Province is another source of bird flu.

The recent findings came after another study, conducted by a joint team of foreign and Chinese researchers, published in the same journal early in February last year.

The findings last year also indicated that the nationwide spread of bird flu grew out of Guangdong in 1996.

"Actually, Guangdong did not witness any bird flu cases in 1996. As a result, the findings are not based on facts," said He.

Yu Dewen, spokesman with the Guangdong Provincial Health Department, added that so far no official research has indicated that bird flu originated in Guangdong.

Farmer still critical

Meanwhile, the farmer from Jian'ou in east China's Fujian Province who contracted bird flu late last month remained in a critical condition yesterday.

The 44-year-old woman, surnamed Li, is being treated at the Jian'ou City Hospital where medical specialists are doing everything they can to save her, said Yu Jian, mayor of Jian'ou, a county-level city in northeastern Fujian.

Yu addressed a panel of experts from international organizations attending a forum in Jian'ou on Monday.

Panel members include Chin-Kei Lee, representative of World Health Organization (WHO) to China, Xu Zhen, the coordinator to WHO's representative to China, and Guo Fusheng, representative from the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations to China.

In another development, poultry from a market in Lhasa, capital of southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region, have been found to be infected with the bird flu virus, the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) announced yesterday.

The birds had died in the market on March 1 and tests for the H5 virus by the National Avian Influenza Reference Laboratory were positive, according to the information office of the MOA.

(China Daily, Xinhua News Agency March 7, 2007)

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