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China will spend US$1.13 billion in a bid to control severe animal diseases by 2015, the government has announced.

The plan, issued jointly by five ministries this week (15 January), outlines how the country will boost prevention, control and eradication capabilities by setting up a nationwide animal epidemic prevention system by 2008.

The prevention system will work at four levels: central government, province, county and village-level.

China will establish animal disease control and prevention centres in all 31 provinces on the mainland — 2,293 in all.

Four national-level key laboratories will be set up to identify and analyse serious animal diseases like bird flu and foot and mouth disease.

In recent weeks bird flu has become a renewed concern in Asia, with a spate of human cases reported in Indonesia, a resurgence of the virus in Thailand, and an increased spread of the virus through poultry in Vietnam.

To date, China has had 22 confirmed cases of bird flu in humans, of which 14 have been fatal, according to the World Health Organization. Since 2004, the epidemic in poultry has cost Chinese farmers US$1.02 billion, whilst companies have lost US$2.57 billion in sales and had to slash of millions of jobs.

Plans will include new quarantine facilities, as well as measures to monitor the quality of animal medicines.

Stations on aquatic disease control will also be set up in 490 key production cities and towns. About 18,700 veterinary surgeries will be opened in villages and towns, along with 250 national-level centres in nature reserves to supervise the health of wild animals.

Wang Changjiang, of the Ministry of Agriculture's veterinary bureau, told SciDev.Net, "An effective animal epidemic prevention system means an overall upgrade of disease supervision, control and fast response capability, and gradual elimination of some major animal epidemics."

Wang said the Ministry of Agriculture would also be launching a pilot livestock database in Beijing, collecting information on the origin, age, medical treatment and disease history of each animal.

An article in Science today (19 January) highlights that animal diseases, which severely constrain livestock enterprises in developing countries, are not being given the attention they deserve by the global community. Their prevention is critical for poverty reduction.

Link to full article in Science

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