- Two reported new outbreaks of avian flu among birds in
western China have raised fears that the virus is being spread widely by
migrating birds and mutating rapidly.
- The regional director for the World Health Organization
(WHO), Dr. Shigeru Omi, told reporters in Beijing on Friday that the two
recent outbreaks in remote areas in which hundreds of birds died were worrisome
because they involved migratory waterfowl and domestic geese, birds that
until now had been fairly resistant to the disease.
- More than 13,000 geese were destroyed in Tacheng, in
the Xinjiang autonomous region, after about 500 died of H5N1 avian flu,
China's Agriculture Ministry reported.
- Poultry markets were closed and roadblocks set up in
the area, the official Xinhua news agency said.
- In late May, the government reported that hundreds of
bar-headed geese, gulls, ducks and cormorants had been found dead on an
island in a salt lake in the Qinghai region that lies on an important migratory
- Previously, the H5N1 flu had been lethal to domestic
chicken flocks, but veterinary officials had believed that geese and wild
birds carried the disease without dying of it.
- "The best thing I can say is to keep our vigilance
high," Reuters quoted Omi as saying.
- For the last two weeks, rumors circulated on some Web
sites tracking infectious diseases that more than 120 people, including
six tourists, had died of avian flu in Qinghai, and that hundreds of people
had been quarantined by authorities.
- However, they all proved traceable to a site run by anti-government
dissidents, which said it could not verify information members had posted
- Pictures on the site purporting to show hundreds of dead
birds were grainy, and allegations that the site's "reporters"
had been arrested were unconfirmed.
- "We're now more skeptical of the sourcing than we
were," said Bruce Klinger, an analyst for the Eurasia Group, a business
consulting firm that drew attention to the reports and then contacted American
diplomats in China in an effort to confirm them.
- A government spokesman said that there had been no human
deaths there, and the Associated Press reported that the health minister
had given the WHO officials permission to visit the sites of the reported
- As of Wednesday, according to WHO, there were 54 known
deaths from avian flu in the world, all in Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand.