January 27, 2004



China Bans Chicken Imports From Indonesia, Pakistan


China plans to ban poultry from Indonesia and Pakistan, two of the latest countries to join the growing list of areas hit by bird flu.


"Fowl, birds and related products arriving in China from these countries will be destroyed under the supervision of the quarantine bureau," the Beijing Youth Daily said, citing an unnamed official from the Ministry of Agriculture.


The report didn't say when the ban will begin or what the related products are. Telephone calls to the ministry weren't answered and its Web site didn't have any information on the action.


No cases of bird flu have been reported in China, which has already stopped shipments from Cambodia, Thailand, Japan, South Korea and Vietnam to prevent the disease from spreading to its poultry stocks. Taiwan has reported a milder strain of the flu but the mainland hasn't said anything about poultry bans from the island.


It wasn't immediately known how much poultry China usually imports.


Beijing has also stepped up border inspections for tainted birds - especially from hardest-hit Vietnam - while agricultural inspectors were examining domestic chicken supplies for any problems.


Additionally, the Health Ministry has ordered immediate training of health workers in methods of preventing the spread of the disease, setting March 15 as a deadline for the education to be completed. No details were available.


The openly aggressive campaign to combat the disease starkly contrasts with the government's initial secretive response last year to the SARS outbreak. Severe acute respiratory syndrome killed 349 people on the mainland before retreating in June.


As with SARS, rumors of outbreaks of bird flu in China have been circulating but are difficult to confirm.


Hong Kong's Wen Wei Po newspaper reported Monday that 200 ducks were found dead recently at a farm in southern China's Guangxi region, which borders Vietnam. Officials have ordered the slaughter of all poultry within 3 kilometers (2 miles) of the farm.


An official from the Longan county government, where the farm is located, said Tuesday that he "didn't know anything" about the duck cull.


"I'm not worried about the possibility of bird flu here because we are following instructions from the county's health bureau on how to prevent the disease," said the official who would give only his family name, Wang.


Telephones weren't answered at the Guangxi health and agriculture bureaus.


So far, at least seven people have been reported killed by bird flu in two countries, making this year's outbreak the deadliest on record. In Vietnam, six people have died. The Thai government has also confirmed one human death from bird flu, and a doctor said Tuesday there has been a second fatality from the disease in Thailand. Thai officials are also awaiting lab results on other deaths suspected linked to the disease.


There has been no evidence yet of human-to-human transmission but health officials are concerned the disease might mutate further.

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