Battle on birdflu - Vietnam culls, China vaccinates, Indonesia ignores!

Vietnam has slaughtered thousands of birds in its two largest cities this week while other Asian nations have also upped their efforts to halt the spread of deadly avian flu.

The Chinese government has promised to help pay for the vaccination of its entire stock of 14 billion poultry against bird flu.

The deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu is endemic in poultry in parts of Asia and has already killed more than 60 people in the region along with millions of birds.

Although the virus remains hard for people to catch, experts fear it could mutate into a form which can be passed easily from person to person triggering off a pandemic in which millions could die.

Experts in Britain say it believes an outbreak of H5N1 in a quarantine center last month was introduced by birds imported from Taiwan.

The outbreak had previously been blamed on a parrot from South America, a region which has no reported cases of H5N1.

At present officials in Vietnam are racing against time to meet the government's deadline of Tuesday for ending poultry raising in the capital Hanoi and in Ho Chi Minh City, the country's commercial hub and largest urban center.

Police, veterinarians and health workers, wearing masks and protective clothes, have gathered in force at duck farms in Hoang Mai district on the edge of Hanoi where outbreaks were detected earlier.

A veterinary official Phi Thanh Hai said they are in the process of carrying out the city's decision to kill all the poultry inside the city as 3,500 ducks quacked in bags after being rounded up at a pond next to the Red River.

According to Hanoi poultry farmers they have received compensation of 15,000 dong for each destroyed duck, which cost 40,000 dong to raise. To date forty-two people have died from bird flu in Vietnam.

Bernard Vallat, director general of the World Organization for Animal Health, urged vaccination of poultry and has said that Indonesia and Vietnam should be given more resources to help stamp out the spread of the virus.

Vallat says that early detection is the first line of defense in defeating the virus but Indonesia and Vietnam, which do not have enough resources and adequate organization, have been late in responding to bird flu.

He maintains they cannot manage the virus by just killing animals at this stage as it is too late and the only solution is vaccination.

Indonesian resources have already been stretched by the tsunami disaster last December, and they have largely ignored calls for a mass cull of chickens, saying it does not have funds to compensate owners.

Meanwhile China, battling several outbreaks of H5N1 among poultry, is attempting to vaccinate billions of birds.

Jia Youling, director-general of the Agriculture Ministry's veterinary bureau, has reportedly said that the central government will cover 50 to 80 percent of provinces' costs, but gave no timetable for the inoculation campaign.

He has said that the nine outbreaks reported across China this autumn have been 'basically brought under control'.

Migrating birds have also carried the virus to eastern Europe and Kuwait and experts fear it will soon spread to Africa.

Britain now says an outbreak last month in a quarantine center was caused by birds imported from Taiwan, rather than a parrot from Suriname, originally thought to be the carrier.

The government has said that more than 50 birds from Taiwan died at the quarantine center.

According to officials, tissue samples from the birds were pooled so it was impossible to say how many of the 53 dead birds had been killed by H5N1.

Animal welfare minister Ben Bradshaw says there is very strong evidence in the epidemiological report that it came via Taiwan.

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