Friday, May 27, 2005

Migratory bird deaths in China: number increases

The number of migratory birds dead from H5N1 avian influenza in Qinghai Province in northwestern China has gone from a little less than 200 barheaded geese last week to over 500 birds of five different species a few days ago to more than 1000 in an announcement from the Agriculture ministry today (Reuters).
A strain of bird flu deadly to humans has killed more than 1,000 migratory birds in northwest China, an agriculture ministry official said on Friday, more than five times the number of birds initially reported dead.

Earlier this week, China sealed off nature reserves and rushed more than 3 million doses of bird flu vaccine to far-flung Qinghai province after migratory birds were found dead from the H5N1 strain.

"What we have been doing is preventing domestic fowl and people from having contact with wild migrant birds," Jia Youling, director general of the veterinary bureau of the Agriculture Ministry, told a news conference.

None of the 2.18 million domestic birds in the province had been found to be infected, he said. He dismissed rumours any humans had been infected.
Those rumors, that more than 120 people in Qinghai have died, continue to circulate on the internet (see post here).

China needs to allow independent scientific and public health observers into this area. Their own statements suggest they are doing what is indicated so there should be no risk to them from having the rest of the world see it. At the same time it is important to have specimens so that genetic sequencing can compare the virus that caused the bird deaths in Qinghai with those circulating elsewhere.

Bird flu is not a Chinese problem or a Vietnamese problem or a US problem. It is a global public health problem and should be approached that way. It is also time to get the Great Powers (including the US) to think that way.

Additional note: We have added a second Update to the previous post on this issue, suggesting a possible source for the blackout rumor in Qinghai.