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» 10/28/2005
CHINA – ASIA
In China no information about the dangers of the avian flu
Local media are not covering the issue, especially in the areas where it is most needed. International health organisations are concerned. Hunan girl thought to have died of the bird flu died of pneumonia instead.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – In China little information on the dangers of bird flu contagion is being made available to the public, especially in rural areas where risks are the highest and where action is needed right away.

Health authorities announced that the girl who died in Hunan province had pneumonia with acute respiratory distress syndrome—not the bird flu.

However, "we don't know what tests have been conducted," World Health Organisation (WHO) spokeswoman in Beijing Aphaluck Bhatiasevi said. "We're waiting for official information from the health ministry in Beijing."

The situation in China is worrisome not only because there have been three outbreaks in one week in three, distant places, but also because the news are trickling in late and in many places people are left without information. Money for the vaccine is also scarce.

In Anhui province poultry was found dead on October 21, but the government announced it only three days later. In Henan an outbreak started on October 13, but again the authorities waited ten days before confirming it.

The government has now announced that local officials will inform the central authorities within three hours of any case.

Many observers though complain that local papers and TV stations are not covering the outbreaks. This helps maintain the poultry prices stable but does little for prevention.

"If people are left in the dark that can create problems," said Noureddin Mona, China representative of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). "Disclosure of information will help public confidence that the government is doing what's needed."

"Unless local people—farmers, doctors, officials—are well-informed, it's difficult to have early detention," said Julie Hall, who oversees WHO's fight against bird flu in China.
In Shenzhen health authorities have adopted a series of measures to prevent an outbreak, but farmers complain that they have to buy the vaccine.

For many observers, to avoid the spread of the infection, the government should compensate farmers and provide economic aid to pay for animal vaccination as well as cover the medical expenses of those who get sick.

In rural areas poultry is free-range which puts them in contact with migratory birds.

Thailand. Authorities are concerned about the impact of the avian flu on tourism, a mainstay of the country's economy. During the 2003 SARS outbreak, tourist arrivals dropped by 17 per cent.

Sri Lanka. Bird imports from Eastern Europe and some Asian countries have been banned. The country imports on an average 500,000 live birds per year as well as 3-4,000 tonnes of poultry meat.

United Arab Emirates. FAO has agreed that the UAE will coordinate operations in the entire Persian Gulf area in case of an outbreak. Poultry imports from Asia, Romania and Turkey have been banned.

Romania. A heron found dead a week ago on the border with Moldova was infected, authorities confirmed. (PB)


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by Giulio Aleni / (a cura di) Gianni Criveller
pp. 176
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