China:Two more new outbreaks of H5N1 reported in Liaoning province

Two outbreaks of bird flu have been reported in Fuxin and Jinzhou, both in Northeast China´s Liaoning Province, where the previous case was also detected.

The new outbreaks bring the total number of confirmed bird-flu cases to six since last month.

About 1,100 chickens were killed in the latest outbreaks, which were reported to the provincial health authorities on November 6.

The National Avian Influenza Reference Laboratory confirmed yesterday that the latest cases involved the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu.

Local governments have culled about 500,000 poultry within a 3-kilometre radius of the outbreak sites to prevent the spread of the deadly virus.

On Tuesday, Premier Wen Jiabao called for intensified efforts to fight bird flu as the country faces a "very serious situation."

Bird flu has not been brought under total control and is likely to spread, Wen warned on Tuesday during an inspection tour of Heishan County in Northeast China´s Liaoning Province.

He urged the local governments to focus on the prevention of human infections, a task he described as "arduous."

China is the world´s largest producer of poultry, and local governments should be fully aware of the great danger posed by the epidemic, Wen said.

He urged areas with a large number of poultry or close to the bird flu-hit regions to draft emergency plans for possible outbreaks.

In Heishan, more than 10 million poultry were culled since the outbreak in late October.

Health authorities fear that as H5N1 virus spreads, it is more likely to mutate, making it contagious among humans. Bird flu has killed at least 64 people in Southeast Asia since 2003.

Wen inspected medical stations and poultry disposal sites, and met poultry farmers and medical workers in Heishan.

Villager Jiang Lianfu told the premier that all his 13,000 chickens were slaughtered even though they were not affected. He got 10 yuan (US$1.23) in compensation for each bird. Wen thanked him for co-operating with the government, and said that compensation should be paid in time.

Local authorities in other parts of the country have been stepping up efforts to halt the spread of the disease.

In Shanghai, the government has told farmers to set up nets around poultry farms to prevent possible infection from migratory birds, Xinhua reported.

In addition, all poultry should be bred in enclosures.

Such measures are necessary as Shanghai and Heishan are on the same bird-migration route, according to Zhang Suhua, an expert with the Shanghai Agricultural Commission.

In East China´s Zhejiang Province, wildlife workers have stepped up monitoring of migratory birds.

Major habitats of migrant birds are now under 24-hour observation, said Yu, a senior official at Zhejiang Wildlife and Plant Protection Office.

In Northeast China´s Heilongjiang Province, zoo workers have stopped feeding beasts with live poultry to prevent possible spread of bird flu, officials at Harbin Northern Forestry Zoo said yesterday.

They have ordered more beef and mutton instead.

Zou Ximing, deputy director of the zoo, said they were keeping a vigilant eye on the birds in the zoo, now considered a "highly dangerous group." All 3,000 birds of 100 species have been vaccinated, he said.

At the province´s Zhalong Nature Reserve, health workers have vaccinated all the 100 red-crown cranes there.

The Wildlife Park Beijing has also halted feeding tigers and lions with live chickens since October.