The World Health Organization's regional director has called on China to change its farming practices as a long-term way to prevent outbreaks of deadly bird flu, state media reported yesterday.
Shigeru Omi, director for the Western Pacific region, told the official Xinhua news agency that the common practice in China of raising different kinds of animals together and living in close proximity to animals must change.
“We cannot kill all the chickens and ducks to prevent bird flu from spreading among them and to humans, therefore we have to make sure the chickens, ducks and humans do not mingle together,” Omi was quoted as saying.
Segregation is one of the most important ways to prevent the spread of the virus, Omi, who was visiting China, told Xinhua in an interview.
China produces 14.2 billion poultry annually and most are raised in farmers’yards or even inside their houses.
Scientists fear the close proximity between poultry and other farm animals as well as humans can provide more opportunity for the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus to mutate into a more lethal strain.
The virus is currently spread among animals and from animals to humans. If it becomes easily spread between humans, it could create a pandemic that would likely kill millions of people, experts say.
Omi also stressed that China must strengthen the surveillance, timely reporting and diagnosis of bird flu outbreaks at grassroots level.
The WHO has suggested the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Agriculture train more health and agriculture personnel in the countryside to help monitor and detect new cases.
China for the first time reported human cases this year, with six confirmed cases so far including two fatalities. It has also reported 31 outbreaks in poultry.
Omi also urged China to share virus samples, adding that it has not shared any samples from its poultry outbreaks this year.
The bird flu virus has killed more than 70 people in Asia since 2003.