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U.S. Urges Caution In Poultry Ban

A U.S. official held talks with Chinese officials on coordinating anti-bird flu strategy on Wednesday and urged caution in banning poultry imports, warning that excessive steps could discourage governments from reporting outbreaks.

Meanwhile, Vietnam banned raw blood pudding and poultry-raising in major cities as Asian governments stepped up measures to prevent a potential human outbreak. A Chinese drug company was in talks with the Swiss maker of the anti-flu drug Tamiflu about the possibility of producing it in China.

Charles Lambert, a U.S. deputy undersecretary of agriculture, said Chinese agriculture and quarantine officials have agreed to step up technical cooperation and information exchanges.

"If countries overreact and are overly punitive in their reaction when this disease is reported, that reduces the incentive for other countries to report," Lambert said at a news conference.

China and Vietnam both have banned poultry imports from countries with outbreaks. Vietnam has suffered more than 40 of the 62 human deaths from bird flu in Asia since 2003, while China has had three outbreaks in birds in recent weeks but no human cases.

Lambert said U.S. producers sell $500 million worth of poultry a year to China.

In related developments:

  • A swan that flew into Croatia from neighboring Hungary carried the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu, the agriculture ministry said Wednesday. Hungary's Agriculture Ministry said it was not planning to increase the number of tests on birds nor introduce new preventive measures beyond those already in place.
  • On Wednesday, China's Premier Wen Jiabao announced sweeping new anti-bird flu measures, ordering more aggressive research on a vaccine, tighter disease monitoring and punishment for failure to report outbreaks.
  • A 50-year-old woman in a northern suburb of the Thai capital of Bangkok was diagnosed with bird flu, Deputy Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said Monday Oct. 31, 2005. She is the third case this year.
  • On Oct. 28, Chinese and Thai officials called for measures to prevent an outbreak that they warned could infect millions of people. In China, officials went on television to try to reassure the public, saying they were capable of stopping the virus. They said human cases would be quarantined and warned that anyone who tries to hide and outbreak would be punished.
  • Indonesian Agriculture Minister Anton Apriyantono warned that the virus could spread quickly through the densely populated archipelago since wild pigeons and other birds already were infected.
  • Australia's health minister warned that his nation might have to close its borders in the event of a human epidemic, while a Hong Kong lawmaker suggested arming the public to shoot migratory birds. "The best way of ensuring that you don't get infected with something like this, in the absence of an effective vaccine, would be isolation," Health Minister Tony Abbott told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.

    Experts worldwide worry that the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus sweeping through bird flocks in Asia and pockets of eastern Europe could mutate into a human flu that could kill millions.

    The Chinese poultry ban affects imports of birds and related products from 14 countries and took effect Friday, according to the Agriculture Ministry Web site.

    Vietnam's ban covers poultry and pet birds, according to state media, which did not specify the countries affected. It specifically prohibited raw blood pudding from poultry and animals, according to the Communist Party newspaper Nhan Dan.

    On Tuesday, President Bush outlined a $7.1 billion strategy to prepare for a possible worldwide super-flu outbreak. He said the aim was to overhaul the vaccine industry so every American could eventually be inoculated within six months of a pandemic's beginning.

    Mr. Bush also called on other countries to admit when super-flu strains occur, but said the public should not panic about the disease.

    China's biggest drug maker, Shanghai Pharmaceutical Group, is seeking permission from Roche Holding AG to produce the anti-viral drug Tamiflu, a possible treatment for a flu pandemic.

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