China grapples with fresh bird flu, foot and mouth
BEIJING: A strain of bird flu deadly to humans has killed five times the number of migratory birds in China initially reported, an agriculture official said on Friday, as scientists in the west warned of a possible global pandemic.
China was also grappling with foot-and-mouth disease outbreaks in cattle in three new areas, but said they had been brought control and posed no risk to humans.
Jia Youling, director general of the veterinary bureau of the Agriculture Ministry, said more than 1,000 wild birds in the far-flung northwest province of Qinghai had died from the H5N1 strain of the disease.
State media earlier this week put the number of dead birds at 178 as China sealed off nature reserves and rushed more than 3 million doses of bird flu vaccine to Qinghai. “What we have been doing is preventing domestic fowl and people from having contact with wild migrant birds,” Jia said.
H5N1 first surfaced in poultry in Hong Kong and China eight years ago and has killed at least 37 people in Vietnam, 12 in Thailand and four in Cambodia.
Scientists fear that avian flu, which is infectious in birds but does not spread easily among humans, could mutate into a form better able to pass from animals to people, possibly triggering a global flu pandemic. Scientists say such a pandemic would likely start in Asia and could kill millions and result in devastating economic losses. None of the 2.18 million domestic birds in Qinghai had been found to be infected, Jia said. He dismissed rumours any humans had been infected.
Vaccination campaign: Poultry in Qinghai and the far western regions of Xinjiang and Tibet have been the targets of a compulsory vaccination campaign in an effort to control the disease and prevent it from spreading to domestic fowl or to humans.
But experts said there was still a chance domestic poultry could be at risk, since they often share water and feeding sources with wild birds. China successfully curbed an outbreak in the same region last year, burning about 145,000 culled birds.
It has also killed and incinerated more than 800 head of cattle to control the outbreak of the Asia type 1 foot-and-mouth disease, in Beijing, the neighbouring province of Hebei and the western region of Xinjiang, Jia said. forthcoming. reuters