China reports new H5N1 outbreaks

Dec 16, 2008 (CIDRAP News) – China's agriculture ministry today said it has detected H5N1 avian influenza outbreaks at two poultry farms in Jiangsu province in the eastern part of the country.

In a statement posted on its Web site, the ministry said both sites where the H5N1 virus was found are in Haian county, in the eastern part of the province, according to a report today from Agence France-Presse (AFP).

H5N1 is considered endemic in large parts of China. Mainland China reported its last major outbreak in June when the virus struck thousands of ducks in Yashan City in Guangdong province, according to a previous report.

The ministry's statement on the Jiangsu outbreak said the source of the virus might be migratory birds, according to the AFP report. Authorities are culling and vaccinating poultry in the area, have quarantined the outbreak farms, and have banned the movement of poultry and poultry products in and out of the area.

News of a fresh outbreak in China comes about a week after officials in Hong Kong announced an outbreak at a poultry farm in the special administrative region city of Yuen Long, the special administrative region's first farm-based outbreak since 2003.

In other developments in that region, public health officials in China, Hong Kong, and Macao today conducted a drill to test their cross-border avian flu response plan, Xinhua, China's state news agency, reported. Named "Exercise Great Wall 2008," the test involved more than 60 public health officials.

The scenario involved a man and his teenage daughter who lived in Hong Kong but became infected with the H5N1 virus after visiting the man's wife in mainland China, according to Xinhua. The drill was the third such exercise under a 2005 cooperative public health emergency agreement between China, Hong Kong, and Macao.

Elsewhere, agriculture officials in India yesterday reported an H5N1 outbreak in West Bengal, the second state to be hit by the virus in the past 3 weeks, The Hindu, a national newspaper in India, reported today.

The outbreak was detected in West Bengal's Malda district, and culling operations are under way, the report said.

Anisur Rahaman, the state's animal resources development minister, told The Hindu that the outbreak in West Bengal requires urgent preventive measures but is not surprising. "The possibilities of the disease reappearing in other districts too are always there given the outbreak in several parts of the state earlier this year and the more recent bird flu outbreaks in Bangladesh and Assam," he said.

In Assam state, officials have culled about 400,000 birds to control the spread of the virus, according to several recent media reports.

Yesterday the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that Indian agriculture officials have confirmed outbreaks at several sites in six of Assam's districts. The report said the nation's health ministry has boosted the capacity of the area's isolation facilities and have equipped health facilities with 20,000 oseltamivir (Tamiflu) tablets, 9,000 surgical masks, 900 protective suits, 300 N-95 respirators, and five ventilators.

The health ministry said there are no suspected human H5N1 cases, according to the WHO report.

See also:

Jun 17 CIDRAP News story "China reports H5N1 outbreak in Guangdong"

Dec 9 CIDRAP News story "Avian flu strikes Hong Kong poultry farm"

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