27 May 2017
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  • » 10/14/2005, 00.00

    CHINA

    China: an incubator of bird flu



    Preventing poultry from contact with wild birds is critical. However it is no easy task to monitor small farms in southern China. There is the danger that the virus hits the Indian subcontinent.

    Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – At least two of the three most dangerous viruses to emerge in the last century (SARS and bird flu) were born in rural areas in southern China, where farmers and animals live in close proximity. Now, through migrating birds, the virus has crossed the mountains.

    Malik Peiris, microbiologist at the University of Hong Kong who studied these two viruses closely, says that a large part of the global population is concentrated in this area, living in close contact with chickens, ducks, pigs, water birds, animals which are "important in the generation of these pandemic viruses… not only in China, but in the entire southeast Asian region".

    Guangdong, in southern China, is dotted with small farms with pigs living in the open air, chickens and ducks which roam about, the perfect "ecological system for the emergence of new diseases," says Paul Chan, a microbiologist at the University of China.

    Other experts draw attention to a lack of medical assistance in Chinese rural areas. Sick farmers avoid going to hospitals and specialists both because they are only found in cities and because they would have to pay for each visit and for medicine, which cost far more than they could afford.

    The H5N1 virus which causes bird flu struck a human being for the first time in 1997. Within a few years, the disease became endemic in many Asian zones, where it has killed 60 people since 2003. The infection worsened this year with the contagion of migrating birds. Experts predict the virus will spread in Europe and Africa within the next two migration seasons. It has already reached northern China, then Kazakhstan, Mongolia and Russia and finally Turkey and the Danube delta in Romania. It has also been found in the south-west regions of Xinjiang and Tibet and there are fears it could soon reach Nepal and the Indian subcontinent.

    Health experts warn that measures to avoid contact between chickens and migratory and wild birds should be taken. However it is difficult to enforce respect for such rules in all small farms, where the population continues to live in the same way as former generations.

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    See also

    14/11/2005 ASIA
    Bird flu: scientists fear the virus has become "more contagious"

    A viral form which attacks mammals with more ease has been identified in Vietnam. New cases of human infection have been in Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand. There were another two deaths in Indonesia and one in Vietnam.



    10/11/2005 ASIA
    Bird flu suspected in new death in Indonesia
    Virus is spreading in China despite government measures. New outbreaks reported in Liaoning province and Vietnam.

    18/10/2005 ASIA
    Alarm bells sound in the West but the frontline against the bird flu is in Asia
    Increasingly, voices are raised arguing that the fight against the bird flu must be carried out where it started, in South-East Asia. Countries in the region should be provided with the necessary aid. New cases of infected birds are being reported.

    27/10/2005 ASIA
    Suspected new cases of bird flu in humans in China and Thailand
    No official confirmation has been forthcoming. International discussions over countermeasures and antiviral drugs continue. Concern is mounting over the danger that the virus might spread to Africa.

    11/06/2005 ASIA
    WHO: Greater transparency about bird flu

    The director of the World Health Organisation's Pacific section appeals to Asian governments for greater transparency and vigilance to prevent further contagion.





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