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[BEIJING] The Chinese government is to give 100 million yuan (US$12 million) to boost research into the avian flu virus that is infecting humans in Asia.

Most of the money will be spent on research into vaccines, diagnosis methods and analysis of different strains of the virus. It will also allow scientists to better understand how the virus is transmitted and to research ways of preventing outbreaks.

As part of the initiative, the government has set up a National Bird Flu Prevention Headquarters in the Ministry of Agriculture.

Hui Liangyu, vice-premier of the State Council, who is acting as head of the organisation, said that it was vital to speed up scientific research into the virus, and to introduce more advanced prevention and control technologies.

So far, suspected outbreaks of the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu have been reported in seven regions of China.

Hui said the top priority was to accurately report the spread of epidemic and to implement effective measures to prevent the spread of the virus and stop it infecting people.

He urged other government departments to intensify surveillance in affected areas, and ensure that quarantining and disinfecting is carried out correctly. He also called for the production and trade of poultry products to be standardised.

More cooperation is also needed with international organisations and the governments of Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, he said.

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