BIRD FLU SUSPECTED IN SOUTHWEST CHINA


2004-01-27
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Authorities ordered poultry cull after dead birds tested positive

Authorities in the southwestern Chinese autonomous region of Guangxi have ordered a poultry cull in a township near the border with Vietnam, after some dead ducks tested positive for the avian virus, RFA's Mandarin service reports.

While two government officials in the regional capital of Nanning told RFA they had heard nothing of the outbreak, a resident of Dingdang township confirmed directly to reporter Fang Yuan that the poultry cull had indeed taken place.

"They've all been killed because they suspect they have bird flu," said the man, who declined to be named. "They tested the ducks...No people haven't got it so far," he said.

The man said that to the best of his knowledge, the virus had not yet been discovered in any neighboring villages or townships. "But we had to kill all of them here," he said. "Every house that kept ducks or chickens had to hand them to the government... They compensated us 25 yuan (U.S.$3) per duck."

The man confirmed Hong Kong media reports that officials had ordered the cull within three kms of a farm at which 200 ducks were found dead in recent days.

The township of Dingdang lies just north of the Vietnamese border, where the deadly H5N1 bird flu has killed at least six people after ravaging the chicken population.

The avian flu strain has emerged in seven countries in Asia in just over a month, killing seven people so far in confirmed cases. A further four deaths are suspected to have been caused by the virus.

While the Guangxi Daily newspaper reported Saturday that inspections had been stepped up since the Vietnam outbreak, reporters with the Nanguo Morning News and The Nanning Evening News said they had not heard about the Dingdang outbreak.

"Where did you see it? We'll try to confirm it," the Nanguo Morning News reporter said when contacted by RFA by telephone.

RFA has also learned that although everyone in the Dingdang township knows about the poultry cull, with even the Nanning party chief and other officials going down to provide guidance to the township's prevention work, there were no reports from local media.

The outbreak has forced the slaughter of millions of chickens in countries across the region, causing another health crisis at the same time as the re-emergence of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) has been confirmed in three cases in southern China.

Chinese officials have already pledged to apply the lessons learned from the SARS epidemic to the prevention of bird flu.

Nonetheless, officials with the World Health Organization (WHO) have urged China to turn over more detailed information, especially the specific details of China's public health safeguards. #####

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