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New Bird flu Strain Claims Refuted

Leading Chinese bird flu experts have refuted a report on Sunday that claimed that a new strain of bird flu had emerged in southern China, //published in a foreign publication as well as widely cited by foreign media recently.

According to scientists in Hong Kong and the United States a new strain of bird flu called the "Fujian-like virus," initially isolated in the southern Chinese province of Fujian last year, had become prevalent in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, Thailand, Laos and Malaysia.

Chen Hualan, director of the National Bird Flu Reference Laboratory at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, has rebuked the report that was published in the US-based Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, saying its claims "lack scientific proof."

She said, "The so-called 'Fujian-like virus' is not a new variant of the virus. Gene sequence analysis of the virus shows that it shares high conformity with the H5N1 virus that was isolated in Hunan when bird flu broke out in early 2004."

Chen's lab analyzes samples from every domestic bird flu outbreak carrying out its isolation and gene sequence analysis. In 2005 and 2006, the lab had isolated some viruses in waterfowl in southern China that was reported to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).

She said, "These viruses all remain steady in gene type and there is no marked change in their biological characteristics."

According to Chen there was only one new variant of the virus, isolated in North China's Shanxi Province and the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region at the beginning of this year and reported to FAO and OIE.

However experiments have shown that the variant is weak in triggering disease in mammals and a new vaccine used in these areas has brought it under control.

While the report had noted that China's bird flu vaccine was less effective for the "Fujian-lik
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