Shoes of arriving travellers to be sterilized in Shanghai to prevent bird flu spread

China's biggest city, Shanghai, is sterilizing the soles of shoes of arriving travelers as it steps up precautions against the spread of bird flu from other areas, the government news agency said Friday. Quarantine officials have increased spot checks on imports of poultry and other animal products, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. The soles of the shoes of passengers arriving by sea, land and air are to be sterilized, Xinhua said.

The report did not say how the shoes would be sterilized, nor did it give details on how authorities would enforce such precautions on the millions of people arriving in the city by road each day.

A notice on the city government's Web site said travelers' bags will also be checked for poultry products.

China has not reported any human cases of bird flu, but scientists say the country could be a huge incubator for the bird flu virus because of its large poultry industry and vast territory.

An outbreak of the virulent H5N1 bird flu strain was reported this week among fowl in Inner Mongolia, in China's north.

It was unclear why Shanghai, a city of more than 20 million people in a coastal region packed with 80 million, was taking extra precautions. Shanghai itself has not reported any bird flu cases, and health authorities in the nearby provinces of Zhejiang, Jiangsu and Anhui said they also had no reports of outbreaks.

China has banned poultry product imports from countries and regions hit by bird flu outbreaks, and such products will be confiscated and destroyed, Xinhua said, citing the city quarantine authority. All birds and poultry products aboard seagoing vessels that have arrived since January have been seized and destroyed, the report said, reports the AP. I.L.

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