Bird Flu Tests To
Cover More Species

From Patricia Doyle, PhD
China Daily via
The central government has agreed to test more species of migratory birds for avian flu in Qinghai Province, international health experts said in Beijing Tuesday (6-28-5).
"The outbreak is declining, and the number of birds dying is reducing," said Julie Hall, a Beijing-based senior World Health Organization (WHO) official, who visited the province last week (4th week June 2005).
But birds are still dying in Qinghai Province at the rate of 20 a day, said Hall, adding that the government has agreed to test other birds to see whether they are carriers capable of infecting species in other areas and to share test results with the international community.
China confirmed the bird-flu outbreak in Qinghai on 21 May 2005, saying early reports showed that the deaths of wild birds were caused by the H5N1 virus, which could mutate into a strain that could be fatal to humans.
Samples of 12 dead birds have been sent to the national laboratory in Harbin, Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, for testing.
The migratory birds are still on the island, but they will begin flying to other parts of China and neighboring countries in about a month, Hall said. "This (testing of more species) is vital if we are to give early warning to other provinces and countries," said Hall, noting that limited tagging and mapping of migratory routes was a hurdle.
The local government has culled domestic birds and vaccinated all poultry, 2-3 million in the province, and closed all live poultry markets.
Another issue is that few people have turned up for testing at township clinics despite an educational campaign: only 2 of the nearly 600 people who had contact with the wild birds were tested for flu because the population is so dispersed.
Noureddin Mona, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) representative in China who also went to Qinghai, said that measures China had taken there were effective.
The WHO-FAO team was accompanied by officials from the Chinese Ministry of Health, Ministry of Agriculture and the State Forestry Administration.
"We see full commitment from governments at all levels in combating the disease," Mona said.
"The mission was very successful and fruitful, diminishing the gap between what is and what should be done in the region," said Henk Bekedam, WHO representative.
"Dealing with wild birds in China can be used as a model for other countries for prevention and control," Bekedam said.
Some of the recommendations made by the team are
For birds: -Testing as many species as possible -Tagging and tracking for early warning -Testing "resident" species -Environmental sampling and decontamination.
Domestic animals: -Protection from wild birds -Testing of horses and pigs
For humans: -All samples should be sent to Beijing for more advanced tests.
WHO Appeals To China To Test Birds And
People For H5N1 - Warns Bird Migration Could Spread Virus
By Alexa Olesen
N.C. Times
The World Health Organization [WHO] urged China on Tuesday [28 Jun 2005] to step up testing of wild geese and gulls, as well as humans who've come in contact with them near a remote saltwater lake where 5000 birds have died. The birds might spread avian flu when they fly south this summer [2005], the WHO warned.
Officials say 54 people have died in Asia so far this year [2005] after becoming infected by sick birds, although none in China. Health officials worry the bird flu might mutate into a form that could spread directly from person to person, setting off a pandemic.
In other Asian locations, authorities have slaughtered birds to contain the virus. That step hasn't been taken in remote Qinghai province because many are from rare, protected species.
Qinghai Lake is a mating ground for migratory birds, and birds there are still dying at a rate of about 20 a day, said Dr. Julie Hall, a WHO expert who visited the region last week [4th week June 2005].
Chinese officials have sealed off the area around the lake. A handful of Chinese experts clad in biohazard suits were allowed to visit to collect dead birds and gather information, Hall said. Everyone else has been forbidden to get within 6 miles of the site.
Tests show the birds died of the H5N1 strain that has proven fatal in Asia's latest outbreak and has prompted the slaughter of millions of chickens and other poultry.
"What we want to see is more testing," Hall, the Beijing-based WHO coordinator for communicable diseases, said at a news conference.
She said WHO hopes to see routine blood testing of anyone who came into contact with the birds to see whether they carried the virus without showing symptoms.
"The number of people tested was lower than what we would expect," said Hall. WHO has learned from its experience in Viet Nam, where 38 people have died, that the virus affects humans in different ways, with some suffering very mild symptoms.
In addition, testing of apparently healthy birds could confirm they aren't carrying the virus, she said.
So far, Chinese authorities have tested only 12 dead birds and 2 people, with the people coming up negative, Hall said. The biggest danger could be from infected birds that show no symptoms, Hall and other officials said.
The number of dead birds reported by Hall was 5 times the toll announced by the Chinese government in late May 2005. But Hall said she wasn't surprised so many had died.
"We believed all along that this is a very difficult outbreak to control because so many birds are there and tightly packed together," she said.
The birds from Qinghai are likely to head to India and Pakistan in August and September [2005], said Dr. Noureddin Mona, the representative in China for the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.
"That's the problem with migratory birds. They are all over the place, and it's hard to catch them," said Henk Bekedam, the WHO representative in Beijing. "And infectious diseases don't respect borders."
WHO has asked Chinese authorities to tag and monitor as many birds as possible. Hall said China agreed but asked for U.N. help.
Some 189 species of birds flock to the saltwater lake each summer before heading south and west. The area is sparsely populated but a popular tourist attraction.
The 5000 dead birds came from 5 species and included gulls, geese, shelduck and cormorant, according to the Web site of the World Organization for Animal Health.
Hall said Qinghai is the 1st place where large numbers of migratory birds have died from avian flu, and it suggested the virus might be becoming more deadly to animals.
Health experts worry birds could spread the virus through wind-blown feces to water supplies or farms, Hall said.
No human cases have been reported in China. 2 people who came into contact with the birds and then developed fever and respiratory problems were tested and found negative for the virus.
Nevertheless, Bekedam said: "We remain concerned about a pandemic."
Patricia A. Doyle, PhD Please visit my "Emerging Diseases"
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