Sunday, May 21, 2006

China’s ability to detect bird flu outbreak in poultry still too weak: WHO

China’s ability to detect H5N1 avian flu in poultry flocks across its vast geographic expanse remains a weak link in efforts to contain global spread of the virus and lower the risk it poses to mankind, the World Health Organization’s top representative in that country suggests.

“We do not think that there has been enough emphasis on the animal surveillance side to do that in China,” Dr. Henk Bekedam told The Canadian Press in an interview.

“Somehow the animal surveillance system in China is unable to detect the circulating H5N1 (virus). And that is troubling.”

Bekedam commended Chinese authorities for their commitment to the enormous undertaking of trying to vaccinate the billions of domestic chickens, ducks and geese across their country.

But he said using vaccination to tamp down levels of circulating viruses requires even more rigorous surveillance in the animal sector. That’s because spread is harder to spot when commercial poultry die-offs, which have served as a large-scale alert system, stop occurring.

“What we know from diseases in general is that at the moment you vaccinate, you shouldn’t become relaxed on the surveillance part - you have to raise the bar because it becomes far much more difficult to actually detect,” he said from Beijing.

“I accept it’s an enormous challenge. It’s very difficult. But at the end of the day I still believe that’s the part where the system in China looks weak.”

China’s Vice Premier Hui Liangyu urged officials to step up surveillance for the virus on Saturday, warning that the H5N1 situation both within that country and worldwide was “not optimistic,” the Chinese newspaper People’s Daily reported.

Avian influenza story source

Posted by john T. on 05/21 at 01:41 PM
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