China Confirms New Bird
Flu Outbreak in Sichuan

Patricia A. Doyle, DVM, PhD

(Reuters) -- China confirmed a bird flu outbreak in the southwestern province of Sichuan, a Food and Agriculture Organization [FAO] official said, adding cold weather and Chinese New Year holidays could mean more cases to come.
More than 1800 poultry were found dead on 22 Dec 2005 on a farm in Sichuan's Dazhu county, and Agriculture Ministry officials sent to the area confirmed the birds had the H5N1 strain of the virus. Since then, 12 900 poultry in the region have been culled to try to contain the virus, which is found mostly in birds but which scientists fear could mutate into a form that can pass easily between people, leading to a pandemic.
In response to the latest outbreak, Hong Kong's government said it had stopped processing requests to import live poultry and poultry meat from Sichuan.
Scientists are worried, because the virus, although hard for humans to catch, has killed more than half the people reported to have been infected. Since late 2003, more than 70 people have died in Asia from bird flu, and the virus is endemic in poultry flocks in parts of the region, highlighting the urgency in trying to control the disease and prevent more human infections.
"In wintertime, we really are concerned because the risk is higher. The more the environment is ideal for the virus, the more outbreaks we are expecting," said Noureddin Mona, China representative for the FAO.
China has confirmed 7 human cases of bird flu, including 3 deaths. Last year [2005], the country had more than 30 outbreaks of bird flu in poultry and culled and vaccinated millions of birds, but officials say the preponderance of small family farms, a lack of well-trained local officials and the world's biggest poultry population will make it hard to contain the disease. "The problem in China is about 50-60 percent of the poultry is operated on small-scale farms in the backyard, which provides the ideal life for the virus to jump between different species of poultry," Mona said. He also repeated warnings from the Agriculture Ministry that the risk of the virus spreading could be higher during the Chinese Lunar New Year, which falls at the end of January this year [2006], as meat consumption and the transport of live poultry increases.
According to an official Chinese notification to the OIE dated 3 Jan 2006, the above mentioned outbreak occurred in the village Liuyan (Dazhu county, Sichuan province), starting 22 Dec 2005. The positive result (highly pathogenic avian influenza H5) by the National Avian Influenza Reference Laboratory, Harbin Veterinary Research Institute, was obtained on 3 Jan 2006. The pathogen was isolated by SPF eggs inoculation, which required 2 passages.
An interactive map, showing China's affected provinces, is available at (go to "maps"). - Mod.AS
Patricia A. Doyle, DVM, PhD- Bus Admin, Tropical Agricultural Economics
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