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Guangzhou bird flu outbreak prompts export ban
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The epidemic prevention authority in Guangzhou has planned to suspend live chicken trading at retail poultry markets in a bid to prevent the spreading of bird flu, officials said yesterday.

"The suspension, which is designed to reduce animal-human contacts, means that locals will no longer buy live chickens at retail markets," said Peng Cong, director of the Guangzhou Animal Epidemic Prevention Center.

The southern mainland city reported a bird flu outbreak last Thursday at a poultry market in the Liwan District.

And so far two ornamental bird farms situated within 13 kilometers of the market have been ordered to suspend exports to Hong Kong for 21 days.

"We are also planning to set up a comprehensive poultry slaughtering center. Live poultry will be forbidden to be sold in retail markets," Peng said.

In another development, health authorities in Guangdong province have vowed to strengthen supervision with its Hong Kong counterparts to prevent influenza from spreading as people travel between the two areas frequently.

In view of the current influenza situation in the Pearl River Delta region, public health and medical professionals from Hong Kong, Guangdong and Macao held a meeting on Monday at the Centre for Health Protection of Hong Kong on issues relating to the prevention and control of seasonal flu.

As of 10am yesterday, Guangdong has recorded seven flu outbreaks, two more than last week, sources close to the Guangdong Emergency Office said.

The outbreaks included two in Guangzhou, two in Zhuhai, one in Shenzhen, one in Shaoguan and one in Huizhou, involving a total of 262 people.

The sources said that the influenza viruses detected in Guangdong were of type B, which is less serious than the type A strain found in Hong Kong.

"Although the number of outbreaks is a little bit higher compared to the same period of the last two years, it is still in the low range," said Zou Qin, a publicity official with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention of Guangdong Province.

"So, there is no need to panic," he said.

In Hong Kong, the Centre for Health Protection received yesterday two reports of children admitted into hospital with flu symptoms.

They involved two 2-year-old boys admitted into the United Christian Hospital on March 10 and 13. Both were listed in stable conditions.

After meeting twice, the expert group in charge of investigating the deaths of three children from suspected complications of influenza has found that the type A viruses found in two of the children belong to the same strain as the one that is spreading now.

The expert group will study whether the three deaths are related to the children's disease and is gathering the children's anamneses.

As the flu season is not yet over in Hong Kong, more outbreaks in schools are expected when classes resume after the Easter holidays.

The centre urged parents not to let children go to school if children have symptoms like coughing and fever.

(China Daily HK Edition March 19, 2008)

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