The World Health Organization says China lacks an adequate reporting and detection
system for eradicating the threat of avian flu, and says time is running short.
Meanwhile, China and other Asian nations are taking ever more extensive measures
to curb the spread of the virus.
The Chinese government announced Friday that it was setting up a national
command center to monitor the spread of bird flu. However, Dr. Julie Hall,
a World Health Organization specialist in Beijing, says the country's reporting
system is still inadequate and may not be able to catch cases of the disease
on small farms in time to eradicate it fully.
Dr. Hall said that China, like other Asian countries, contains many small
household farms raising just a few chickens or ducks. She says a system must
be set up that reassures these farmers they won't be hurt financially if they
report the presence of sick birds.
"For some of these people, destroying the few chickens that they have will
put them into poverty and governments around the world have to recognize this
and be able to rapidly compensate those people so that there is an incentive
for them to actually report, because this is a potentially global public health
problem," she explained.
China has confirmed cases of avian flu among ducks or chickens in three provinces,
and suspected cases in two more plus Shanghai, the country's most populous
So far, China is thought to have culled at least 140,000 birds. However,
Dr. Hall also argues that Chinese officials have yet to demonstrate that they
are conducting the cull in a safe way.
"We need to ensure that the culling process is done safely and doesn't pose
an additional risk and that the quarantine measures...are being taken very
seriously to prevent an environmental contamination and futher spread of this
disease to other animals," she said.
The WHO is providing anti-influenza drugs to workers in Thailand and Vietnam
who are participating in the mass cull of birds there.
China, like other Asian countries, is taking increased measures to prevent
the spread of the disease. Poultry shipments from all six infected Chinese
regions have been halted.
China separately reported a fourth new case of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome
on Saturday. It said the man, from Guangdong Province, had already been released
from the hospital.
Vietnam has also enacted a ban against the transport of poultry within the
country, and officials have promised to increase compensation to farmers who
Malaysia, which has yet to report any cases of bird flu, has stepped up inspections
of farms and markets.
And the prime minister of Thailand has urged citizens to eat more chicken,
saying it is safe as long as it is well cooked. He said he would personally
pay the equivalent of 75,000 U.S. dollars to anyone who became ill from eating
Confirmed outbreaks of bird flu have affected poultry flocks in ten Asian
countries, and millions of birds have been killed. In addition, at least eight
people in Vietnam and Thailand have died after coming into contact with sick
Health officials are particularly worried that the virus could change into
a strain capable of being passed from human to human.