China’s “window of opportunity” for fighting bird flu closing fast

Another grim warning:

China’s chances of halting bird flu are dwindling, the United Nations warned on Saturday, as the deadly virus extended its reach across Asia and sped towards Thailand’s southern tourist hot spots.

“We have repeatedly said there is a brief window of opportunity to act within China,” World Health Organisation specialist Julie Hall said after Beijing confirmed new outbreaks in the provinces of Hubei and Hunan were the lethal H5N1 strain of avian influenza.

“This latest news strongly suggests that the window is getting smaller with each passing day,” she said.

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Controlling outbreaks in China — expected to produce some 10.1 million tonnes of poultry in 2004 — is particularly worrisome for health experts because nearly four out of five chickens, ducks and other fowl are raised on household farms, where peasants live in close proximity with their animals.

Humans are only believed to be able to catch the virus from birds, not each other, but experts fear it could mutate and become infectious among people.

From all I can see, China is doing as good a job as possible to retain transparency and to nip this brewing crisis in the bud. The sheer size of the country, however, makes this an awesome challenge.

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Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 2 Comments

Restaurants are starting to get the message. My wife and I are on the road and we stopped to eat at a restaurant and we were told that no chicken or duck was on the menu. Before long, your website might be the only Peking Duck we will be able to get in Peking.

February 1, 2004 @ 7:26 am | Comment

I just saw an utterly depressing clip on BBC about how China is definitely losing this battle. I hope it isn’t true. Asia needs a break, at least one year with no major crises, so it can get back on its feet.

February 1, 2004 @ 11:23 am | Comment

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