China on high alert against threat of migratory birds carrying bird flu

Regions in northern China which lie along a major migration path for wild birds must be on high alert for birds carrying the H5N1 bird flu virus from Europe and elsewhere, the Ministry of Agriculture said Tuesday.

As the Northern Hemisphere spring approaches, the likelihood of migratory birds spreading the bird flu virus in many parts of north China will increase sharply, China's Minister for Agriculture Du Qinglin was quoted as saying in a statement posted to the ministry's Web site Tuesday.

Du made his comments during a seminar on animal diseases Monday, it said.

The virus killed thousands of bar-headed geese in mid-2005 at a nature reserve popular with dozens of species of wild birds in China's western Qinghai province.

Those deaths raised immediate fears that the virus was on the move, jumping among hosts in the wild. China warned that those birds could spread the illness far and wide when they migrated to Southeast Asia, Russia and elsewhere.

Now the government fears bird flu might return again as wild birds make another seasonal migration back to China.

Increasing the possibility of the disease spreading is the fact that innoculations that were administered to poultry last year will have lost their effectiveness, Du was quoted as saying, reports the AP.


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