Mon, Feb 27, 2006 - Page 4 News List

Beijing warns on bird flu threat

GROWING PROBLEM Two new human cases of bird flu have highlighted the difficulty China is having in controlling the bird-borne epidemic

AFP , BEIJING

China has warned of possible widespread outbreaks of avian influenza during the coming spring bird migratory season, as the health ministry announced two more human cases of the virus.

"At present we cannot rule out the possibility of widespread outbreaks of the bird flu in China," the Xinhua news agency yesterday quoted Agricultural Minister Du Qinglin (杜青林) as saying at a parliamentary meeting.

"We must remain on a high-level alert in all areas and continue to earnestly step up prevention and control work," he said.

Du's remarks on Saturday came as the health ministry reported that a nine-year-old girl and a 26-year-old woman in eastern China had contracted bird flu and were both in critical condition.

The two cases brought the number of people stricken by the bird flu in China to 14, with eight of them dying, the ministry said.

The girl, surnamed You and from Zhejiang Province, showed signs of fever and pneumonia on Feb. 10, while the woman, surnamed Wang and from Anhui Province, showed similar symptoms a day later, the ministry said on its Web site.

Both have been hospitalized.

The pair had close contact with sick or dead chickens before their illness, while the Anhui case occurred in a county where an outbreak among poultry was reported.

People who had close contact with them have been put under medical observation by local health authorities, the report said, adding that so far they had shown no abnormal symptoms.

The World Health Organization (WHO) also urged greater bird flu surveillance and monitoring in China out of fears that human populations will become more endangered if wild birds pass the virus onto poultry farms during the spring migratory season.

"During the spring, migratory birds are likely to come back to China, so there is more concern over outbreaks here," Aphaluck Bhatiasevi, WHO's Beijing-based spokeswoman said.

Fears that migratory birds could infect farm-raised birds further underscored the need to step up monitoring for outbreaks among poultry and ensure the safe movement and transportation of the farmed birds, she said.

"There is an equal level of concern on the movement and transport of poultry ... since humans are in closer contact with poultry, humans will be at higher risk [among farm-raised birds]," Bhatiasevi said.

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