12/17/2005, 00.00
CHINA

Sixth human case of bird flu in China

Government fears an enormous epidemic in the Lunar New Year.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agenies) – Chinese state media said a 35-year-old man in eastern China had become infected with the potentially deadly H5N1 strain of the virus after an outbreak was reported in ducks in his village. This is the sixth human bird flu case in China. The man, identified only by his surname, Guo, fell ill on December 4 and was recovering in the hospital, the China Daily newspaper – a government daily newspaper, reported. Some ducks in his village were also affected.

The mainland expects more bird flu outbreaks in the run-up to the Lunar New Year holiday late next month. Jia Youling, director of the Ministry of Agriculture's veterinary bureau, said on December the 14: "we expect poultry consumption will rise and there will be more long-haul transport during the New Year and Spring Festival holidays. Therefore, bird flu outbreaks may occur."

Mr Jia said such a risk could only be removed if the entire poultry population was vaccinated against H5N1, but so far "only 80 per cent of poultry had been vaccinated, with 6.85 billion doses of vaccine given to poultry this year". Scientists had not found any evidence that vaccinated chicken could carry or spread the virus, he said, adding the import bans were a result of "outdated perceptions".

Jia rejected comments by Hong Kong microbiologist Guan Yi that it was unrealistic for the country to vaccinate all its domestic fowl. He also denied rumours that the H5N1 virus had been found among mainland pigs. "Currently, no virus has been found in any pig."

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