China kills 13,000 fowl after bird flu outbreak
BEIJING (AP)--China has slaughtered more than 13,000 birds after an outbreak of the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus was confirmed in the far west, state media said. The outbreak is the first reported among birds this year despite the deaths of five people from the virus.
Eight people have contracted bird flu this year in China but no sick poultry have been found in the areas where the patients fell ill, despite inspections of hundreds of thousands of birds. The World Health Organization has said the lack of cases raises questions about the quality of China's surveillance system.
China's Ministry of Agriculture said 519 fowl died and were confirmed as having the H5N1 strain of bird flu, the official Xinhua News Agency reported late Feb. 10.
The fowl died in Hetian prefecture, also known as Hotan, in Xinjiang, China's far western region that borders Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The ministry and the regional government in Xinjiang have taken emergency measures, Xinhua said, killing 13,218 fowl. The epidemic has been brought under control, it said.
While outbreaks in bird and people pop up regularly, there is usually a spike in cases during the colder months because the virus survives longer and the chance of infection increases.
The last reported outbreak in fowl was in mid-December, when authorities in eastern China killed more than 300,000 fowl after bird flu was discovered in chickens in Jiangsu province.
One of the five fatal human cases this year was a 31-year-old woman from Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang region, who fell ill on Jan. 10 and died nearly two weeks later. Hetian is 570 miles south of Urumqi.
The H5N1 strain has killed at least 254 people worldwide since 2003, most through contact with sick birds. Scientists are monitoring the virus because of its potential to mutate into a new human influenza virus, which could infect millions.
But scientists have found little mutation in the virus strains taken from those patients and no mutation that would allow human to human transmission, Mao Qun'an, spokesman of the Ministry of Health, said Feb. 10, according to Xinhua.