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Recession alert over bird flu
New bird flu outbreaks have been reported as the Asian Development Bank warns that a global flu pandemic could kill up to 3 million people in Asia and plunge the world into recession.
The latest Chinese outbreak, discovered on October 26, killed 8,940 chickens and prompted officials to destroy 369,900 other birds in Badaohao, a village in Liaoning province, east of Beijing, the Agriculture Ministry said yesterday.
China has reported three other bird flu outbreaks since October 14. No human cases have been reported, but authorities have warned that one is inevitable if the country fails to contain outbreaks in chickens and ducks.
In Vietnam, more than 3,000 poultry died or were culled this week in three villages in Bac Giang province, about 60 kilometres northeast of Hanoi, a local official said.
"We have taken all necessary measures to stamp out the outbreaks," said Nguyen Dang Khoa, the vice chairman of the People's Committee of Bac Giang province.
Vietnamese officials have banned the transport of poultry to or from the three affected villages, which have been disinfected, Khoa said.
Settlements bordering the infected villages have also been disinfected and poultry have been vaccinated to prevent the virus from spreading further, he said.
The deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu has killed at least 62 people - including 41 in Vietnam, according to World Health Organisation figures - and resulted in the deaths of more than 100 million chickens in Asia since 2003.
Most human cases have been traced to direct contact with sick birds, but experts worry the virus could mutate and become easily transmissible between humans, possibly triggering a deadly flu pandemic.
In a report released yesterday, the Asian Development Bank outlined a number of scenarios - some catastrophic - that could face Asian nations in the event of a global flu outbreak.
In a worst-case scenario, in which the psychological impact of a pandemic lasts a year, the bank said Asia could lose almost $US282.7 billion ($A382.7 billion) - or 6.5 per cent of its gross domestic product - in consumption, trade and investment and another $US14.2 billion ($A19.22 billion) due to workers' incapacity and death.
The report said "growth in Asia would virtually stop," and the economic impact would likely force the world into a recession. That scenario assumes about 20 per cent of Asia's population would fall ill, and 0.5 per cent would die.
In a less pessimistic forecast, the bank said that if the psychological impact of an outbreak lasted six months, the cost to Asia in lost consumption, trade and investment would be about $US99 billion ($A134.02 billion).
China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand would likely be hit hardest by the pandemic, the bank predicted.
A separate report by the World Bank said a human pandemic triggered by bird flu could cost the world economy as much as $US800 billion ($A1.08 trillion).
Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged governments to create better systems for compensating farmers with infected poultry stocks.
One way to control the disease's spread is to slaughter sick flocks, but some countries don't have adequate procedures in place to compensate farmers whose livelihoods would be destroyed, Annan said.
"If they are not compensated, they are not going to tell you whether their birds are sick," Annan said at a global health summit in New York. "If other pandemics have taught us anything, it is that silence is deadly."