Chinese Authorities Act Against Three Outbreaks of Avian Flu in Poultry Stocks

October 31, 2005

Chinese authorities discovered poultry stocks that were infected with the avian flu virus in Inner Mongolia, Anhui, and Hebei in late October, according to reports posted on Xinhua's Web site on October 20, 25, and 27. In each instance, the Ministry of Agriculture responded by culling and vaccinating tens of thousands of birds. Avian flu has also broken out in 2005 in Qinghai, Tibet, and Xinjiang. Chinese authorities have not reported any human cases of avian flu.

Central government authorities have taken a number of steps since August to prevent the spread of avian flu. On August 19, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention announced a National Plan for Monitoring Influenza and Human Avian Flu which recommended, among other steps, the formation of a National Information Management System for Monitoring Influenza and Human Avian Flu. On September 28, the Ministry of Health announced a Flu Emergency Plan. On October 13, the Ministries of Health and Agriculture announced the establishment of a working group to strengthen coordination between the two ministries. In addition, the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection, and Quarantine announced on October 17 the establishment of a Special Working Group to Control the Spread of Avian Flu. Many observers in the international health community have applauded such efforts, but some experts have expressed concern about the coordination of the local response to avian flu. Aphaluck Bhatiasevi, the World Health Organization spokeswoman in Beijing, said in an October 21 South China Morning Post article that, “There is strong political commitment [in China] but things need to be done. There is a need to increase the capacity to conduct surveillance at the local level.”

Local authorities in major urban areas have also taken steps to respond to avian flu. According to an October 25 Xinhua report, authorities in Beijing have vaccinated 98 percent of the poultry in the municipality, and require any live poultry to have origin certificates from regions free of avian flu. In Shanghai, authorities have established a surveillance network for migratory birds, according to an October 28 report in the Liberation Daily. In Guangdong province, health officials have stockpiled antiviral drugs, and required all poultry farms to vaccinate their birds by the end of November, according to reports on and in the Nanfang Daily.