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Two bln yuan earmarked for bird flu control


Health workers in Yongzhou city, Central China's Hunan Province, bury dead chickens "killed by bird flu" in a drill Wednesday November 2, 2005 to test their emergency response ability. A bird flu outbreak was reported in the province's Xiangtan city last month. It was immediately brought under control.(Xinhua)
BEIJING, Nov. 3 -- China's fight against bird flu received a strong shot in the arm yesterday the government has earmarked a special fund of 2 billion yuan (US$246.6 million) for epidemic control.

    "(We) must realize the severe and compelling situation in bird flu control, maintain high vigilance, and never let down our guard," said a statement from a State Council (China's cabinet) meeting held yesterday in Beijing.
    The meeting, presided by Premier Wen Jiabao, decided to set aside the amount from this year's central budget for prevention and control of the highly pathogenic avian influenza.

    It also announced that it would reactivate the national command headquarters to co-ordinate efforts against bird flu.

    Observers noted the size of the fund exactly matches the budget allocation made in April 2003 to fight against the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) contagion.

    In addition to funding, the State Council said, any failure, delay or cover-up in reporting outbreaks will be dealt with harshly, according to sources.

    Information about epidemics will be released accurately and in time, and technological co-operation with other countries and international organizations will be further enhanced, they said.

    In case of a new outbreak, measures such as culling, disinfection and quarantine should follow immediately to eradicate any infection at the site, the statement said.

    The meeting stressed that the country's priority is to ensure no one is infected.

    China has reported and brought under effective control three bird flu outbreaks among poultry over the past month in North China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, and East China's Anhui and Central China's Hunan provinces.

    No human case has been reported.

    The State Council statement said the country should improve emergency procedures and prevention and treatment measures for human infection, and strengthen monitoring of live poultry markets.

    In particular, veterinary workers at the grassroots level should receive more training, and livestock-raising methods should be transformed so that poultry is raised under advanced, hygienic standards and on a large scale.

    Most Chinese poultry is raised in scattered, small courtyard farms with little attention to hygiene, making them vulnerable to a possible contagion, Jia Youling, director of the Veterinary Bureau under the Ministry of Agriculture said on Friday.

    Other measures adopted at the meeting included stepping up immunization in border areas, poultry farms and wetlands; and giving priority to the development of effective vaccines.

    Yesterday's meeting came amidst reports of more bird flu outbreaks elsewhere in the world, while various areas in China stepped up countermeasures.

    Thailand yesterday reported a fresh outbreak of bird flu among poultry in the central province of Ang Thong, the seventh province to be hit by the latest flare-up of the disease, Reuters reported.

    Thai Foreign Minister Kantathi Suphamongkhon said his country and Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos and Viet Nam have agreed to co-operate fully to prevent outbreaks of the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu in the region, according to a Xinhua report.

    Meanwhile, China has suspended poultry and poultry-product imports from 14 countries, including Thailand, Viet Nam and Cambodia, where bird flu cases have been reported, according to the Ministry of Commerce.

    Also yesterday, a seminar in Beijing brought together Chinese agricultural and quarantine officials and their United States counterparts to discuss ways to stop the spread of bird flu.

    (Source: China Daily)

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