Thursday, June 09, 2005

Dead geese in Xinjiang

As anticipated, flu-like illness among migratory birds is not confined to the Qinghai bird sanctuary in that province. Hong Kong officials are quoting their mainland colleagues as saying hundreds of geese have died in the vast Xinjiang province on Qinghai's north western border.
"It was understood that there were about 1,042 geese with signs of illness, of which 460 died," the Hong Kong government information service reported late Wednesday, citing a spokesman for the city's Health, Welfare and Food Bureau.

"The spokesman said mainland authorities informed the bureau this afternoon that dead geese were found in an individual farm in Tacheng in Xinjiang," the statement issued late Wednesday said.

It said 13,000 birds were culled and Xinjiang authorities took other measures including isolation and disinfection.

"Mainland authorities also carried out vaccination immediately at all poultry farms in the nearby areas and the situation had now been brought under control," the Hong Kong statement said.

The outbreak in Xinjiang follows the deaths from H5N1 of more than 1,000 migratory birds last month in Qinghai southeast of Xinjiang, the first confirmed outbreak in China in nearly a year from the H5N1 virus.

A Chinese veterinary official said then that the disease was spreading along a western China migratory bird route that stretched from South Asia to Central Asia and flew over the Himalayas through the Tibet and Qinghai regions. Xinjiang and Qinghai border Tibet.
These reports occur in a setting of substantial uncertainty, with unverified reports of mass bird die-offs and human infection and deaths circulating on the internet and increasingly in the press. Despite several strong denials by Chinese authorities there is deep suspicion officials are not being completely forthcoming, a legacy of suspicion from China's disastrous cover-up of the SARS outbreak in 2003. Like many others we have been watching with apprehension, but little hard news has emerged. It is past time to allow outside independent experts in to Qinghai for some ground-truthing.
Those wishing to follow on a daily basis are referred to several excellent sites that have taken to detailing all reports, verified or not, emerging from this area. A new site of great merit is M-J Milloy's EpidemiCA, whose cautious attitude is similar to our own. I highly recommend it. In addition there are the already established sources, especially Recombinomics, the CurEvents flu clinic and the Disease Outbreaks discussion board at The Agonist. Effect Measure will continue to watch it but not give a blow by blow account as too little hard information is available to justify this in our views.

Addenda: I inadvertantly left out some other compendia of information from around the net on bird flu. One is The Coming Influenza Pandemic. Check it out and use it regularly (I do). Another is Avian Flu - What we need to Know.