Cases have been increasing since January, and Beijing has been reassuring meat consumers there is no risk to their health. “The H5N1 virus is only contagious among animals. So it can cause sporadic cases among human beings, not widespread epidemics,” said Li Dexin, head of Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.
In April, a chicken farm in Guyuan city, in the Ningxia autonomous region, central China, reported H5N1-affected hens, resulting in a slaughter of over 950,000 chickens in the area.
Other regions have taken preventive measures. In northern China’s Tianjin city, the local government this month required local farmers to vaccinate animals and conduct animal blood tests on a monthly basis. Any live poultry market with affected birds will have to be closed regularly to get tested and sterilised. “We are also setting up monitoring sites in big local animal farms,” said a Tianjin local government official.
Also in northern China, authorities reacted quickly to dead chickens being found at a kindergarten in Dalian city, Liaoning province, which were confirmed as being infected with H5N1. Officials culled other nearby domesticated birds, including peacocks, geese and ducks.
Meanwhile, in neighbouring Bhutan, the government has dealt with 11 bird flu outbreaks, involving 7,133 birds, of which 370 died and 5,642 were culled. It has quarantined farms, imposed movement controls, cleaned up and disinfected contaminated premises, and culled birds. A recent outbreak of suspected bird flu at Yangbari, Mongar, eastern Bhutan, has seen samples sent to St Jude Centre for Excellence in Influenza Research and Surveillance, USA, by the National Centre for Animal Health in the capital Thimphu.
“We are keeping strict vigilance and active surveillance, including clinical as well as laboratory surveillance,” said the centre’s deputy chief veterinary officer Dr N Dahal. He said the team undertook an intense surveillance in the suspected outbreak area, decontaminated suspected households and carried out awareness activities to the communities in the locality, including livestock producers, schools, and consumers in general.