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Early Spring Makes Bird Flu Prevention a Tougher Task

The unseasonably mild temperatures in northern and central China could aggravate the country's task of preventing a bird flu outbreak, a senior official said on Monday.

Many migrant birds will stay longer in China w  temperatures are abnormally high this year, Vice Minister of Agriculture Yin Chengjie told Xinhua.

"Firstly, the spring season is usually prone to bird flu. Secondly, while the average temperature in north and central China is higher than the past, migrant birds may stay longer within the borders of China," Yin said.

"We have successfully stopped the spread of bird flu from migrant birds in Qinghai and Tibet to human beings and domestic poultry. Now, we need to intensify monitoring of bird migration and be on high alert," he said.

China reported only 10 bird flu cases among domestic poultry last year, down 68 percent from the previous year and 80 percent from 2005, Yin said. No epidemic had been reported in China for four months.

As the Spring Festival, which falls on Feb. 18, draws closer, more livestock and domestic poultry will be transported and distributed, increasing the need for quarantine and quality inspections and raising the risk of the spread of the epidemic across regions, Yin said.

He said that China would reinforce border control, secure the quality and availability of vaccines and improve its emergency response capability.

Last year, China vaccinated more than 95 percent of domestic poultry and tracked 6.811 million epidemic samples.

To cope with the shortage of epidemic prevention staff in the village and townships, the government has decided to train more village veterinarians and animal epidemic prevention technicians.

(Xinhua News Agency February 13, 2007)

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