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China rejects report on bird flu mutation as 'unscientific'.

BEIJING, Nov. 10 Kyodo

China on Friday strongly rejected a report by a team of U.S. and Hong Kong researchers faulting it for having allowed a new variant of the H5N1 strain of bird flu virus to emerge, calling its findings ''utterly groundless.''

Jia Youling, the Agriculture Ministry's chief veterinary officer, denied the report's suggestion that China's vaccination of poultry to fight bird flu has in fact facilitated the emergence of a new ''Fujian-like sublineage'' of H5N1 that has spread to Hong Kong, Laos, Malaysia and Thailand.

''There is no new 'Fujian-like' virus variant at all. It is utterly groundless to assert that the outbreak of bird flu in Southeast Asian countries was caused by AI (avian influenza) in China, and there would be a new outbreak wave in the world,'' Jia told a press conference.

He was referring to an article published last week in the U.S. academic publication Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The team of U.S. and Hong Kong scientists said that 3 percent of samples taken from both ducks and geese at live markets in southern China tested positive for bird flu, namely a ''Fujian-like'' variant of the H5N1 virus that can be spread from birds to humans.

It concluded that China's disease control measures have not been effective in containing the H5N1 virus.

''The data cited in the article were unauthentic and the research methodology was not based on science,'' Jia said in rejecting the findings. ''Therefore, their arguments are not tenable and are totally against the facts.''

He said the government has introduced a number of measures to curb the spread of bird flu. These include improving the system of reporting new cases, upgrading the emergency response mechanism and strengthening international exchanges.

Julie Hall, a World Health Organization official based in China, said the report's findings show the Chinese government is failing to provide a full and accurate picture of the country's bird flu situation.

As of Oct. 31, bird flu has killed at least 152 people in 10 countries, including 14 in China, since its reemergence in December 2003, according to WHO statistics.

Indonesia leads with 55 fatalities, followed by Vietnam with 42 and Thailand with 17. The other affected countries are Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq and Turkey.

Health experts fear the H5N1 virus could mutate into a form that can spread from person to person.
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Publication:Asian Economic News
Date:Nov 13, 2006
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