Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) China has admitted to one death and another two possible cases of bird flu in Hunan. Meanwhile the army has intervened to cull more than one million birds in Liaoning. Indonesia admits to being ill-prepared to stop the spread of infection while an international meeting opens today in Geneva to tackle ways of fighting the virus in Asia.
Yesterday the Chinese health authorities admitted "they could not exclude" that He Yin, a 12-year-old girl in Wantang, Xiangtan county in Hunan, died of bird flu on 17 October. The girl fell ill after eating a sick chicken together with her family. The H5N1 virus killed more than 500 chickens and ducks in the area in October. The Agriculture Minister said he is waiting for "the outcome of latest tests" as regards two other sick people also: the nine-year-old brother of the deceased, He Junlong, and a 36-year-old teacher from Yisuhe in the same county. The help of the World Health Organisation (WHO) has been requested for testing. Bejing recently issued reassurances that the girl died of "pneumonia", denying the possibility that she died of bird flu, but the WHO protested because reports were sketchy and the organization was not allowed to carry out verifications on reports and on the site of infection. This led to concern that the Chinese government wanted to hide information, as has happened once already with the SARS epidemic. Even news of the hospitalization of the teacher from Yisuhe on 24 October was hushed up. In Hunan, 192 people who came into contact with the three sick people are "under medical observation".
In Heishan county, Liaoning province, the army yesterday culled more than one million birds within a 3km radius of six villages where new cases of infection appeared on 3 November. The area is not far from the border with North Korea. The provincial government has allotted 85 million yuan (10.5 million dollars) to pay reparations to farmers and to prevent and contain the spread of infection. More than 100 health workers have been dispatched to the area for medical checks and free vaccinations. Around 14 million chickens have been vaccinated.
Meanwhile, a three-day meeting kicked off today in Geneva, bringing together experts and officials from around the world to decide on a global strategy to counter the disease and to help poor countries in Asia which have been stricken by the virus, for which the World Bank has announced a donation of between 300 to 500 million US dollars. The aim is to contain the virus before it evolves into a form which can be transmitted between humans and before it reaches Africa, where it could well become endemic.
Vietnam. Local media report confirmation of a case of bird flu: a 25-year-old woman from Dong Da district who was admitted to hospital in recent days after eating a chicken bought at the market. In 2003, the epidemic killed around 50 million chickens in Vietnam, with a loss of around 3.5 trillion dong (around 221.5 million US dollars), according to the Agriculture Ministry.
Indonesia. Despite new cases of human contagion, the state has not disposed sufficient funds to fight the infection, to vaccinate chickens and to compensate owners whose poultry is slaughtered, Even the simple elimination of poultry living in backyards in millions of homes proves difficult. There is concern especially about Banten province, where four or five residents died of the disease.
Malaysia. Dozens of dead pigeons were found in Bidor city, Perak state. Hawaru Hussein, an official of the Agriculture Ministry talked of "poisoning" and excluded bird flu.