|Epidemic prevention worker, right, vaccinates a duck in Tancheng County, east China's Shandong Province|
China says it will give all of its farm birds a vaccine to protect them against avian influenza. The chief medical officer for animals first announced the development of the vaccine in late October. Jia Youling said the vaccine against the h-five-n-one bird flu virus is easy to use and not costly.
Last week the Chinese Agriculture Ministry announced that all farm birds would be vaccinated. It did not give details, but it said the government would pay for the program. China also announced plans to send vaccine to Vietnam to deal with outbreaks there.
China has about five thousand million farm birds at any one time. But the yearly number of birds that will need to be vaccinated is much higher. This is because chickens, ducks and other poultry can be sent to market after only a few months. Reports say China uses about fourteen thousand million farm birds every year.
China has reported a number of recent outbreaks of bird flu. In early November, the World Organization for Animal Health received a report of a large outbreak in Liaoning Province. Workers destroyed two million five hundred thousand farm birds. Officials say nearly two million birds in the area were vaccinated.
Only healthy birds can be vaccinated.
People who work with farm birds are advised to keep clothing and shoes free of material and waste that could spread infection. Experts say clothes worn on a farm should stay on the farm. Farmers should also keep equipment, containers and tools clean. Soap left on a surface for ten minutes can work as a disinfectant.
Also, farmers must watch their birds for possible signs of the disease. Birds that appear weak or that drink an unusual amount of water could be sick. Bird flu can also cause sudden death.
Wild birds have carried the virus across Asia and into Europe. Once farm birds become infected, the disease spreads quickly. Health officials worry that the virus could begin to spread easily from person to person.
The World Health Organization says one hundred thirty cases were confirmed in humans as of November seventeenth. Sixty-seven of the people died. Vietnam has had the most cases. There have also been cases in Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia and China.
China last week reported its first two human cases of avian influenza. One of those people died.
This VOA Special English Agriculture Report was written by Mario Ritter. Our reports are online at voaspecialenglish.com. I'm Faith Lapidus.