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China denies reports of bird flu infections

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February 03, 2004 18:05 IST

China on Tuesday called "groundless and irresponsible" foreign media reports alleging a cover-up of cases of deadly avian influenza among humans.

"There is no single person infected by the bird flu on the Chinese mainland so far," spokespersons of China's ministries of health and foreign affairs said separately.

Citing reports from health departments of different localities, the Ministry of Health spokesman said authorities have examined 588 people in close contact with the sick poultry and so far there is not a single report of the bird flu infection.

He said the MoH has formulated an urgent action plan to curb inter-human transmission. A guideline is being issued, he added, to prevent transmission for people with close contact with the sick poultry.

The ministry has also taken 22,000 flu samples since April 2002 and separated 1,459 viral strains, but "not a single deadly H5N1 bird flu virus has been separated among the samples," he said.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue urged foreign correspondents to verify facts before putting out stories on bird flu. He expressed hope that they would adopt a "scientific attitude" and quote correct facts in articles.

Beijing's health authorities on Tuesday announced nine special measures to prevent the import of the disease from abroad.

The city has set up screening booths at all ports of entry.

The government is also providing poultry farms, processing centres and import and export companies with timely information on the spread of avian influenza abroad and China's policies in dealing with the disease.


Anil K Joseph in Beijing