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Bird Flu Suspected in Duck Deaths

Nearly 1,000 ducks in Guangzhou have succumbed to what appears to be a bird flu outbreak, according to information posted on the website of the Ministry of Agriculture.

Farmers in Sixian village, Xinzao Township, in the Panyu district of Guangzhou, first reported that their ducks were dying on September 5. By last Thursday, more than 9,830 ducks had been reported dead, the website said.

Samples taken from the dead ducks were sent to the provincial animal disease prevention and control center, and initial tests revealed the presence of the highly pathogenic H5N1 virus.

Samples have been also sent to the National Avian Influenza Reference Laboratory for testing. The results have not yet been released.

Local veterinary authorities had culled about 32,630 ducks as of last Friday, it said.

Sources with the provincial department of agriculture said they had sent staff to disinfect the affected area, and no further deaths of fouls had been reported in the Panyu district or nearby areas.

An official with Guangzhou's Panyu District government, who identified himself only by the surname Zhong, told China Daily that no traces of the outbreak had been detected outside of Sixian village.

And the local government is setting aside funds to compensate farmers for any ducks they had to cull, the official added

As the world's largest producer of poultry, livestock and aquatic products, China has much to lose from outbreaks of animal diseases. It is estimated that animal diseases cost the country 40 billion yuan (US$5.16 billion) annually.

Twenty-five human cases of bird flu have been reported in China since 2003. Sixteen people have died of the disease.

The top legislature last month adopted an amendment to the law on animal epidemic prevention that requires all animal owners to comply with compulsory vaccination policies.

(China Daily September 17, 2007)

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