6M Birds Killed As Flu Precaution

A worker disinfects empty bird cages at a closed poultry market in Beijing Monday Nov. 7, 2005. China dramatically beefed up its fight against bird flu, announcing Monday it has killed 6 million birds around its latest outbreak of the virus and ordering the immediate closure of all 168 live poultry markets in Beijing. (AP Photo) AP

Authorities ordered all live poultry markets in China's capital to close immediately and went door-to-door seizing chickens and ducks from private homes, as the government dramatically beefed up its fight against bird flu on Monday.

Beijing also announced that 6 million birds had been slaughtered around the site of China's most recent bird flu outbreak, and the World Health Organization said it had been asked to help in the reopened investigation of the country's possible first human cases of the virus.

The escalation of anti-bird flu measures in the world's most populous country came as a meeting of hundreds of international experts in Geneva opened with warnings that a global human flu pandemic is inevitable and could cost the global economy at least $800 billion.

"It is only a matter of time before an avian flu virus ... acquires the ability to be transmitted from human to human, sparking the outbreak of human pandemic influenza," WHO director general Lee Jong-wook told the gathering.

Experts fear the bird flu virus that is sweeping through Asia and has entered Europe could mutate into a form that is easily passed between humans, producing a pandemic that could kill millions.

The virulent H5N1 strain of the virus has killed at least 62 people in Asia since 2003, and resulted in the death or destruction of millions of birds.

In related developments:

  • In Japan, signs of bird flu outbreak were detected at another poultry farm near a previously affected ranch near Tokyo, according to news reports Monday.Tests showed the chickens had antibodies for a virus from the H5 family, but survived.On Friday, antibody testing found that 80 chickens at a farm in Ibaraki state had been exposed to a virus of the H5 strain. 180,000 or 300,000 birds at the farm would be killed as a precaution, officials said.

  • China and Vietnam reported new bird flu outbreaks in poultry Friday, Nov. 4, while Japan prepared to destroy 180,000 birds to stop a suspected outbreak and Thailand announced plans to distribute its own generic anti-viral drug.

  • Hong Kong immediately banned poultry imports from Liaoning.

  • According to a BBC report, scientists in Seoul claim some chickens started to recover from avian flu, when fed an extract of kimchi, a Korean dish somewhat similar to sauerkraut. Men's Health magazine is helping feed the growing craze, with an article listing cans of sauerkraut as among essential supplies for surviving a flu pandemic.

  • Brazilian authorities discarded the presence of bird flu in Latin America's largest country on Friday after tests showed no signs of the disease in a rooster that died with symptoms of the illness. Agriculture Ministry spokeswoman Maria das Merces said federal investigators were trying to determine what killed the rooster, "but the first tests were conclusive to rule out all types of bird flu."

    • John Esterbrook

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