Thu, Oct 27, 2005 - Page 1 News List

H5N1 hits China again as India tests dead birds

AGENCIES , BEIJING AND OTTAWA

Fears of avian flu spreading deepened yesterday after China reported another outbreak in poultry while India said it was testing blood samples from 10 dead migratory birds.

Croatia said yesterday that tests had confirmed the lethal H5N1 bird flu strain in dead wild swans found in eastern Croatia last week. The strain has already been confirmed in Turkey, Romania and European Russia.

There has been a spate of fresh cases in Asia and on the eastern edge of Europe ahead of the winter when H5N1 seems to thrive, experts say.

Scientists believe that migratory birds escaping the harsh northern winter are helping spread the virus, and governments around the world are nervously monitoring their borders and testing wild birds that are landing on their shores.

In China's latest case of H5N1 infection, the third since last week, hundreds of chickens and ducks died in a village in Hunan Province.

China had notified the UN of the latest outbreak near the provincial capital Changsha on Tuesday, according to a notice on the Web site of the World Organization for Animal Health.

"The outbreak has been effectively controlled," the Agriculture Daily newspaper said.

China reported another outbreak among farm geese in Anhui Province on Tuesday and said it had also been brought under control, with no reported human infections.

INDIA PROBE

In India, officials are trying to find out what had killed 10 dead migratory birds in West Bengal state, a state minister reported yesterday.

"We are not taking any chances and have sent the blood samples for avian flu tests," West Bengal Animal Resources Development Minister Anisur Rahaman said.

West Bengal forest officials said that around 40 dead birds had been found in one of the state's five bird sanctuaries over the past week.

But he added that the birds could have died after falling from their nests during a storm.

In Thailand, where 13 people have died of bird flu, the government has reactivated a network of almost 1 million health monitors to try to halt the spread of the disease after new outbreaks in poultry were confirmed in five provinces.

MINISTERS

Meanwhile, health ministers and experts from 30 countries gathered on Tuesday in Ottawa, Canada, to discuss the growing threat of avian influenza.

They agreed a coordinated international effort was needed to stop a possible pandemic, but offered no measures and little help for poorer countries.

At the end of two days of meetings, delegates said in a statement that they had taken "important steps towards security and long-term, sustained political and institutional engagement to address global pandemic influenza preparedness."

In fact, the countries yielded to the World Health Organization (WHO) to lead the charge against the H5N1 virus, with others playing only supporting roles.

A proposal by Mexico and Thailand for wealthy countries to share 5 to 10 percent of their flu vaccine stockpiles with developing countries gained too little support to proceed.

Instead, Canada and the US pressed for developing countries to rely on the WHO's stockpile of anti-viral drugs and vaccines to stop future outbreaks -- amounting to about 30 million doses for 3 million people.

India and Taiwan said on Monday that they might allow their drug-makers to copy Tamiflu without obtaining a license from Roche, the Swiss maker of the anti-viral drug believed to be the best human defense against bird flu, according to reports.

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