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Last Updated: Sunday, 6 November 2005, 09:23 GMT
Mass poultry cull in north China
Chinese worker sprays disinfectant into trees in Sichuan Province
China has been hit by four bird flu outbreaks in three weeks
Armed police have been brought in to guard a mass cull of poultry in north-east China after a new outbreak of the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu.

Some 370,000 birds are to be killed in the province of Liaoning, close to the North Korean border after the virus killed nearly 9,000 chickens.

The operation, due to end on Sunday, involves 1,700 government workers and 100 police officers, Chinese media say.

It is China's fourth outbreak in three weeks but no human cases are reported.

The virus has killed more than 60 people in Asia and infected at least 123 since late 2003.

So far there is no confirmed case of human-to-human transmission.

The police have been deployed to seal off the outbreak area in Liaoning's Heishan County which has been visited by Agriculture Minister Du Qinglin and Chief Veterinarian Jia Youling, according to China's state news agency Xinhua.

It was, Mr Du said, "imperative to act early, quickly and strictly" against the virus.

Free medical checks are being offered to residents while poultry in unaffected places in the vicinity is being vaccinated.

The H5N1 strain remained largely in South-East Asia until this summer, when Russia and Kazakhstan both reported outbreaks
Scientists fear it may be carried by migrating birds to Europe and Africa but say it is hard to prove a direct link with bird migration
EU has banned the import of captive live birds

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