Top Chinese Vet Warns of Animal Disease Threats

CHINA - Jia Youling, a leading veterinarian at the Ministry of Agriculture has issued a grave warning about the high risk of the emergence of a a new strains of the bird flu and foot and mouth disease viruses.
calendar icon 6 March 2009
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China, the world's biggest meat and poultry producer, faces high risks of animal disease outbreaks this year as new strains emerge and cases of bird flu rise, said the country's top veterinarian, according to Bloomberg.

"Problems with animal diseases are grave" compared with last year, Jia Youling of the Ministry of Agriculture said in Beijing. A higher number of bird flu outbreaks in and around China and a new variant of foot-and-mouth disease are the biggest threats, he said.

China's flagging economy has already slowed demand for meat and poultry, cutting sales of animal feed. Threat of disease has prompted farmers to cut pig and poultry numbers, further reducing demand for soybeans and corn, the main ingredients in feed.

"Disease outbreaks have been sporadic so far," which does not indicate any epidemics, Mr Jia said. Still, the so-called type A foot and mouth disease is a challenge to deal with as no vaccines are commercially available, he said. Last month, Shanghai veterinarians culled 440 cows after an outbreak of the type A foot-and-mouth disease.

Bird flu outbreaks have also risen this year, with authorities in Hetian district of the remote north,west Xinjiang province culling over 13,000 domestic fowl in February after an outbreak of the H5N1 strain.

Migrating wild birds are the main carriers of bird flu viruses, and outbreaks in neighbouring countries can easily be spread to China, Mr Jia said while attending the annual parliament meeting in Beijing.

The wide distribution of small farms across the country increases the contacts between domestic fowl and wild birds, boosting the exposure to the virus, he said. China also has the most domestic waterfowl, which have to be vaccinated twice, so some farmers don’t want to make the effort to pay, he said.

China still has many live poultry markets, where viruses can live long and spread quickly, endangering humans, Mr Jia warned.

Still, controls on Blue Ear disease, which killed tens of millions of pigs in 2007, have 'significantly improved' after successful vaccination, Mr Jia told Bloomberg.

Further Reading

- You can visit the Avian Flu page by clicking here.
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