China declares no sign so far of bird flu outbreak among migratory birds

No outbreaks of the potentially deadly bird flu virus have so far been found among migratory birds in China this spring, a top government wildlife official was quoted Tuesday as saying.

Monitors have reported cases of dead birds, but there have been no signs since last autumn that the deadly H5N1 strain is spreading among migrating wild birds in China, the official Xinhua News Agency quoted Zhuo Rongsheng as saying at a news conference Monday.

The recent discovery of birds infected with H5N1 in the Middle East, Western Europe and Africa has reinforced the belief that the virus is spreading through wild birds.

Migratory flocks have in recent weeks begun flying back through China from Southeast Asia and Australia.

Zhuo, director of wildlife and forest plant protection at the State Forestry Administration, recently announced China would set up another 200 monitoring stations, adding to the more than 500 already in place. Zhuo said anywhere that bird flu was discovered among migrating birds would be immediately isolated.

China's agriculture minister warned on Saturday of a possible "massive bird flu outbreak" as the country announced two new human cases of the H5N1 flu strain, raising to 14 the number of human infections since October.

Du Qinglin called for agriculture authorities to be on "high alert" and to boost disease monitoring and vaccination efforts.

Outbreaks in poultry occurred last year in 32 areas throughout China, killing 163,100 chickens, ducks and other fowl, and authorities destroyed 22.6 million more birds to keep the virus from spreading, Du said in a briefing for Chinese legislators.

The latest human cases include a 9-year-old girl and a 26-year-old woman, both hospitalized in critical condition with fever and pneumonia, the Health Ministry reported.

Of those sickened in China, eight have died.

Outbreaks in China poultry have continued despite a mass inoculation effort that the government says has vaccinated all of the country's vast flocks of chickens, ducks and other birds.

Bird flu has killed at least 93 people since 2003, according to the World Health Organization. Almost all the human deaths have been linked to contact with infected poultry, but experts fear H5N1 could mutate into a form that spreads easily among people, possibly sparking a pandemic, reports the AP.


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