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No outbreak among poultry reported, says ministry
Last Updated(Beijing Time):2009-02-06 07:43

There have been no reports of bird flu outbreak among poultry since January in the provinces where eight human infections were found, the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) said Thursday.

"There is no epidemic outbreak of the H5N1 strain of avian influenza in the seven provinces where the human bird flu cases were identified," it said in a statement to China Daily.

The conclusion was arrived at based on research of the overall epidemiological situation and investigations conducted last month, the ministry said.

The statement was made in response to remarks by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on possible bird flu outbreaks among poultry in China.

Eight human bird flu cases have been reported in the country in January, the most in a single month since 2003 when the lethal virus was first detected in humans, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Five people have died.

"The human cases show the virus must be circulating among birds," Vincent Martin, a senior technical advisor on avian flu for the FAO, told Bloomberg.

He said the FAO had received no reports of bird flu cases among poultry from MOA since December.

"There must be some cases which have not been reported," Martin said. "It's not normal that we don't receive any confirmation or any reports of outbreaks in poultry."

Dr Hans Troedsson, WHO Representative in China, also expressed concern.

"The fact that this is the highest number (of human infections) for a single month in China reminds us that the virus is entrenched and circulating in the environment," he said.

The MOA said it has kept international organizations including the World Organization for Animal Health and the FAO updated about the bird flu situation in China.

Experts from the ministry said the existence of the bird flu virus does not necessarily mean an outbreak among poultry.

Of the 37 human cases reported in China since 2005, only 4 were linked to poultry outbreaks, the MOA said.

"It is quite common that not all human cases are interlinked with animal cases," the statement said.

The ministry also denied any bird flu cases in Guangdong province.

Three of 12 dead birds found on Hong Kong's Lantau Island tested positive for the strain, stoking concerns the virus is circulating widely among birds in southern Guangdong, which borders Hong Kong.

Shu Yuelong, director of the Chinese National Influenza Centre with the Ministry of Health, said human bird flu cases will continue to rise.

International health officials have been monitoring H5N1 for more than a decade for signs it could mutate into a form that is easily spread between humans.

H5N1 has infected at least 404 people in 15 countries since 2003, killing 63 percent of them, according to the WHO. Of the 38 confirmed cases in China since 2003, 25 have been fatal.

Source:China Daily 
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