China takes precautions to fight bird flu and holds everything under control

Authorities tried to assure China's public and the world about government anti-bird flu measures by taking reporters on Thursday to a farm where thousands of birds were slaughtered after an outbreak last month.

Reporters wearing protective suits and masks were shown the empty chicken barns of farmer Qin Zhijun, who said health officials arrived 30 minutes after he reported finding hundreds of dead birds.

Qin said that within 15 hours, some 7,000 birds were destroyed in what the government says was a successful effort to contain the virus.

The farm in the northern grasslands of the Inner Mongolia region suffered the first of three outbreaks reported over the past month in China. Others were reported in Anhui province in the east and Hunan in central China, but no human cases have been reported.

On Thursday, the windows of Qin's brick buildings were sealed with plastic. The ground was covered in chalky white powdered disinfectant.

Qin said authorities filled in a pond where they suspect migrating birds might have passed the virus to his flock.

The farm is surrounded by roadblocks and visitors were required to explain why they needed to enter the area.

The Chinese government is eager to show it is taking steps to contain bird flu following sharp criticism of its slow response to an outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, which first emerged in the country's south in late 2002.

Beijing has destroyed thousands of birds an effort to contain the virus and banned poultry imports from 14 countries with bird flu outbreaks.

Also Thursday, the government said travelers arriving from affected countries who have fevers or other flu-like symptoms will be asked to register. It said they would be given cards granted them priority treatment at hospitals if they get sick.

China's policy is to kill all birds within 3 kilometers of an outbreak and vaccinate all birds within 5 kilometers, the AP reports.

V.Y.