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|Tuesday, May 30, 2000, updated at 09:51(GMT+8)|
Agriculture Ministry: Mainland Bird Flu not TrueThe Ministry of Agriculture Monday denied the rumors in the Hong Kong and Taiwan media that high pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) has broken out in the Chinese mainland.
A host of Hong Kong newspapers, quoting reports from Taiwan, alleged last week that the contagious disease had affected poultry in Shanghai, and Guangdong and Shandong provinces.
The allegation caused panic in Hong Kong, which depends on the mainland for chicken and other fowl. It also reminded the people of the bird flu that afflicted Hong Kong at the end of 1997.
"The mainland has maintained a tight grip on the prevention of all kinds of animal and poultry diseases, particularly the HPAI (bird flu), which is listed as a Class A infection by the Ministry of Agriculture," said Zhang Zhongqiu, deputy director of the ministry's Bureau of Animal Production and Health.
China has banned imports of any suspected sick birds and avian products from countries where fowl have the flu. Prevention and monitoring of avian influenza has been reinforced since 1997, Zhang added.
In 1997, the ministry examined 12,130 groups of birds, and last year it tested 5,777 groups. Each time it detected no cases, according to the deputy director.
In its latest survey, of the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region and Guangdong, Shandong and Hebei provinces, the ministry collected 542 poultry blood serum samples. None contained flu antibodies, Zhang said, citing laboratory results.
Regarding the 1997 outbreak in Hong Kong, Zhang said the World Health Organization concluded from a January 1998 investigation that the flu was not found in the Chinese mainland. Poultry trade with the mainland was not affected.
China exported 45 million live birds valued at US$98.5 million last year, a rise of 5.6 per cent from 1998. The majority of the exports went to Hong Kong and Macao, indicated statistics from the General Administration of Customs.
All live fowl destined for Hong Kong come from registered poultry farms in Guangdong and Guangxi, according to sources from the State Administration of Exit-Entry Inspection and Quarantine. About 600 ranches nationwide are being checked to ensure food safety in Hong Kong and Macao, noted the officials.
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