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Sunday, June 05, 2005

H5N1 In China

Recombinomics has been following events in China. It appears that waterfowl have brought H5N1 (bird flu, avian flu) from India. There are reports of mass deaths of various water birds in Qinqhai. China is admitting to about 1000, but there may be thousands more and some of the people who have reported that and publicized photos on the net may have been arrested.

There are unconfirmed reports that over 100 people may have died (possibly from eating infected birds?). A local reports that authorities are expanding hospital/clinic wards (original site):
I am having sore throat lately, guess I am smoking too much, went to the Gangcha County People Hospital to get some antibiotic. The hospital was awfully busy moving and cleaning. My doctor friend told me thay are expanding infection wards, and transferred many doctors from other hospitals. he also told me not to go out if possible. many hospitals in Qinghai are building additional infection branch, expanding and building more infection wards and increasing medical staff.
If all of this is true and the birds were infected in India, the southern Russian republics and Pakistan might need to be concerned. Some of the bar-headed geese (the first species known to be dying) go to Tibet. The extreme conditions of their migration may have caused this sudden mass die-off, but other species of birds have died in the area in China.

This is the official Chinese story - that there are no human deaths and that they are vaccinating all the domestic birds purely as a precaution.

This appears to be a new variant of H5N1.

Update:
BBC News (earlier article):
There are no reported cases of the disease among China's domestic poultry, let alone any cases of human infection.

But if there is no reason to be alarmed, why has China rushed to shut down all its national parks, sealed off Lake Qinghai, and ordered the vaccination of millions of poultry across vast areas of western China?
This article showed pictures of moon-suited workers sanitizing a truck and contained the following map:

In March Chinese authorities started monitoring all migratory birds, even around Beijing.
Also in March, Chinese authorities announced victory:
Jia Youling, MOA spokesman for HPAI Control, made the announcement on Tuesday at a press conference sponsored by the State Council Information Office.

Quarantine was lifted Tuesday from affected areas in Nanning, south China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, and Lhasa, capital of southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region. All 49 areas affected since the first outbreak was confirmed on January 27 have now been cleared, said Jia.

No new cases in birds have been reported in the past 29 days, nor have there been any cases of human infection, the MOA spokesman stressed.

Bird flu hit 16 provinces, municipalities, autonomous regions in China between January 27 and March 16. The central authorities reacted promptly, establishing the National HPAI Prevention and Control Headquarters, Jia said.
So it was in Tibet.

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