Several bird species died in China's avian flu outbreak

May 25, 2005 (CIDRAP News) – Some 519 birds of at least five migratory species have died in the H5N1 avian influenza outbreak in China's Qinghai province, according to data the Chinese government provided the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).

The May 21 report, available on the OIE Web site, indicates a broader outbreak than has been described in media reports, which have attributed only the deaths of 178 bar-headed geese to H5N1. Other affected bird species are the great black-headed gull, the brown-headed gull, the ruddy shelduck, and the great cormorant.

The report was made by Jia Youling, director general of the veterinary bureau of the Agriculture Ministry in Beijing. It charts a timeline for the outbreak, which was first discovered May 4. Jia estimated the date of primary infection as Apr 15 and described the large saltwater lake where the dead birds were found as "an important rendezvous of migratory birds on one of their Asia-Europe routes."

Clinical and laboratory diagnoses were used to confirm H5N1 as the culprit, the report said. Lab tests were conducted May 18 at the National Avian Influenza Reference Laboratory.

Chinese authorities struck a confident note this week despite having declared earlier that the deaths were not related to avian flu.

Chinese officials have told the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) that "the situation is under control," according to Noureddin Mona, an FAO representative in Beijing, in a report from Kyodo News.

"What is most important is that there has been no report of human infection so far, and that it is only confined to wild birds" and has not involved poultry, Mona said.

A report today by China's Xinhua news service said the province is well on the path to finishing vaccinations for an estimated 3 million domestic poultry, according to Dang Chenyan, director of the provincial animal epidemic prevention headquarters.

"We have surveyed more than 2 million fowls in the whole province, and didn't detect any contagion (with H5N1) among them," Dang said.

However, the story does not say whether blood tests were conducted or what method was used to rule out H5N1 infection. In addition, there is no mention of testing among humans, pigs, or other animals also known to contract the virus.

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