China has slaughtered more than 13,000 birds after an outbreak of the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus was confirmed in the far west, state media said.
The outbreak is the first reported among birds this year despite the deaths of five people from the virus.
Eight people have contracted bird flu this year in China but no sick poultry have been found in the areas where the patients fell ill, despite inspections of hundreds of thousands of birds.
The WHO has said the lack of cases raises questions about the quality of China’s surveillance system.
The Chinese Ministry of Agriculture said 519 fowl died and were confirmed as having the H5N1 strain of bird flu, the official Xinhua news agency reported late on Tuesday.
The fowl died in Hetian Prefecture, also known as Hotan, in Xinjiang.
The ministry and the regional government have taken emergency measures, Xinhua said, killing 13,218 fowl.
The epidemic has been brought under control, it said.
While outbreaks in birds and people pop up regularly, there is usually a spike in cases during the colder months because the virus survives longer and the chance of infection increases.
The last reported outbreak in fowl was in mid-December, when authorities in eastern China killed more than 300,000 fowl after bird flu was discovered in chickens in Jiangsu Province.
One of the five fatal human cases this year was a 31-year-old woman from Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, who fell ill on Jan. 10 and died nearly two weeks later.
Hetian is 920km south of Urumqi.
The H5N1 strain has killed at least 254 people worldwide since 2003, most through contact with sick birds. Scientists are monitoring the virus because of its potential to mutate into a new human influenza virus, which could infect millions.
But scientists have found little mutation in the virus strains taken from those patients and no mutation that would allow human to human transmission, Xinhua quoted a spokesman for the Ministry of Health as saying.
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