China launches national monitoring campaign to fight bird flu
"In order to remove the H7N9 virus from the root, it is very important for China to enact a comprehensive plan and launch a national campaign to monitor wholesale markets, traditional agricultural markets and poultry farms," said a formal opinion note.
The ministry said it had acted because bird flu has caused economic losses of CNY20bn (US$3.27bn) to the national poultry industry in the first two months of 2014.
As of 18 February, government statistics said 347 people had been infected by H7N9 so far, and 109 of them had died. The China Animal Agriculture Association (CAAA) estimated that direct losses to the Chinese poultry industry reached CNY60bn (US$9.8bn) in the first half-year of 2013 alone.
The ministry paper stressed concern that the virus was capable of mutating into highly pathogenic strains, posing even bigger risk to the poultry industry. It said the bulk of infected birds had been found in markets, with a smaller number of cases being found on poultry farms.
Some provinces have started asking wholesale markets and poultry farms to conduct both monthly serological and pathogen surveillance. Traditional agricultural markets should already conduct some kind of surveillance twice a year, said the government note. Birds found to be infected through serological surveillance should be immediately killed and buried, it said. Compensation will be paid from a special fund for the prevention and control of bird flu.