China used flu drug on birds

The World Health Organization (WHO) is attempting to clarify from China, reports that the government there encouraged farmers to use a human anti-viral drug to treat birds infected with a deadly strain of avian flu.

This action would be breaking international guidelines.

Scientists have long feared the bird flu, which although infectious in birds, does not spread easily among humans, could mutate into a form capable of generating a pandemic in which millions of people without immunity could die.

According to reports, Chinese farmers, acting with government encouragement, had tried to suppress major bird flu outbreaks among chickens with amantadine, which would possibly make it useless in fighting human influenza.

Roy Wadia, a spokesman for WHO in China says the organization is seeking more information, and hopes to have clarification on the issue.

Wadia says the use of drugs, not just in China, but also around the world, should be carefully monitored as it has been seen over the years that improper administration of medication or drugs can lead to drug resistance in the case of other diseases.

Researchers have already determined that the H5N1 bird flu strain in Vietnam and Thailand has become resistant to amantadine, and they suspect this is due to the drug's use on farms.

International researchers, say the drug will no longer provide protection to people in a worldwide avian flu epidemic.

According to the WHO, the virus, that first surfaced in poultry in Hong Kong and China eight years ago, is "unstable, unpredictable and very versatile".

It has already killed at least 37 people in Vietnam, 12 in Thailand and four in Cambodia.

This year alone China has culled thousands of birds in an attempt to curb the spread of the disease.

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