10/24/2005, 00.00
ASIA

Bird flu: China and Thailand want tighter controls on bird farming and human housing

Early reporting is seen as key to containing outbreaks. Domestic bird vaccination continues. Tomorrow in Ottawa, ministers and experts from around the world meet to discuss the crisis.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – As health ministers and experts from 30 countries start gathering in Ottawa (Canada) for a two-day conference on how to improve preventive measures and cooperation against the dangers of bird flu pandemic, China and Thailand have stepped up their monitoring of farms and even houses.

The meeting in Canada will be the first to bring together health ministers and experts from around the world, as well as representatives from the World Health Organisation, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation and the World Organisation for Animal Health to discuss the bird flu.

Experts believe that it is impossible to stop the virus from spreading among birds, passed on by migratory birds and or via the trade in exotic birds.

They stress that there is no immediate risk of human-to-human contagion, but Canada is still reeling from a SARS outbreak, which killed 44 people in Toronto in 2003 and cost it nearly US$ 1 billion.

In Copenhagen experts from 50 countries will also gather today to assess the response to bird flu after it appeared on the old continent two weeks ago.

Asian countries have already adopted strict measures after the H5N1 virus caused the death of thousands of birds and forced the authorities to cull hundreds of millions more. In Asia there is a risk that the virus might mutate, making human-to-human transmission possible.

China. China has increased internal and border checks after the Health Ministry warned a few days ago that the "danger of the fatal disease spreading to human beings exists".

Farms and markets as well as homes are being inspected for infected birds. This comes in the wake of an outbreak in Inner Mongolia that left 2,600 chickens dead and forced the authorities to cull another 91,000.

Special steps have been taken to secure Beijing, including airports, bus and train stations.

Beijing Deputy Mayor Niu Youcheng said that in the capital all poultry and domestic birds have been vaccinated, while 98 per cent of poultry raised on farms around Beijing have been as well.

More than 60 surveillance stations, equipped with advanced telescopes, have been set up around the city's key waterways to keep a close watch on migratory birds.

Thailand. Some 900,000 volunteers are going house to house to check for cases of animal or human contagion. People found infected are hospitalised. Health Minister Suchai Charoenratanakul said inspections are coordinated by 9,700 local health offices whose task is to prevent outbreaks. Studies are underway to find ways to separate human housing from bird stocks.

Pakistan. No cases have been announced so far, but health authorities warn that the country lacks emergency plans and monitoring systems.

United Arab Emirates. In Abu Dhabi food control authorities have banned the sale of life birds and imposed strict hygiene rules. Poultry can be sold only in a newly created central market place.

Iran. Gulfnews reports today that over 5,000 migratory birds were found dead in Western Azerbaijan province on the border with Turkey, Iraq and Azerbaijan. Cars coming from Turkey are being sprayed with disinfectant and hunting and capturing of live birds have been banned in the western parts of the country.

Russia. A new hotspot has been found in the Tambov region, Marshanski district, 480 km south of Moscow, where 14 chickens raised in a henhouse close to a home died. The Agriculture Minister ordered all domestic birds in the area culled. Since last July, over 600,000 chickens have been culled in Russia. (PB) 

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