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China kills fowl after bird flu

China has slaughtered more than 13,000 fowl in the far west of the country after dead birds tested positive for bird flu, state media said.

world Updated: Feb 11, 2009 11:51 IST

China has slaughtered more than 13,000 fowl in the far west of the country after dead birds tested positive for bird flu, state media said.

China's Ministry of Agriculture said 519 fowl died and were confirmed as having the H5N1 strain of bird flu, the official Xinhua News Agency said late on Tuesday.

The fowl died in Hetian prefecture, also known as Hotan, in Xinjiang, China's far western region that borders Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The ministry and the regional government in Xinjiang have taken emergency measures, Xinhua said, killing 13,218 fowl. The epidemic has been brought under control, it said.

Eight people have contracted bird flu this year in China, and five have died, but no sick poultry have been found in the areas where the patients fell ill this year, despite officials inspecting hundreds of thousands of birds.

One of the five was a 31-year-old woman from Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang region, who fell ill on Januray 10 and died nearly two weeks later. Hetian is 920 kilometers (570 miles) south of Urumqi. But scientists have found little mutation in the virus strains taken from those patients and no mutation that would allow human to human transmission, Mao Qun'an, spokesman of the Ministry of Health, said Tuesday, according to Xinhua.

The H5N1 strain has killed at least 254 people worldwide since 2003, most through contact with sick birds. Scientists are monitoring the virus because of its potential to mutate into a new human influenza virus, which could infect millions.

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