The Chinese government says it has created a new mechanism to warn about outbreaks of animal-borne diseases such as bird flu that might threaten humans. The announcement comes after a disease carried by pigs killed at least 39 people in August in China's southwest and an outbreak of bird flu earlier this year killed thousands of migratory birds.
The new mechanism links the ministries of health and agriculture and is meant to alert the government to disease outbreaks and activate teams of researchers, the official Xinhua News Agency reported late Thursday.
It said a task force would meet regularly to report on the possible spread of zoonosis, or diseases like bird flu that can spread from one species to another, the AP says.
"In case any kind of zoonosis breaks out, the two ministries will jointly ask experts to conduct epidemic research and experimental inspections, as well as giving treatment advice," Xinhua said.
It said the Health Ministry also has set up a flu task force to "monitor the coming flu season and ensure the preparation of vaccines and emergency medical responses by the end of September."
Health authorities are tracking the spread of the virus in birds because it could mutate into a dangerous human pandemic strain. Although the disease does not easily infect humans, 117 people, mostly those who have had repeated contact with infected poultry, have caught it in Asia over the last two years and 60 have died.
An outbreak of the disease was confirmed this week among poultry in Turkey, raising fears it might spread further.
Photo by BBC.