Disinfectant line is village's defence

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 01 February, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 01 February, 2004, 12:00am

Wuxue, Hubei

A bucket of disinfectant, a plastic scoop and a handful of policemen are the only defences between a confirmed bird flu outbreak in Zhangling village and the rest of Hubei province.

The tiny village is about a three-hour drive from the provincial capital Wuhan. It was confirmed on Friday as an epidemic 'hot spot'.

On the outskirts of the quarantine zone, police had drawn a line in the sand marked by straw.

At this defence outpost, a lone officer drew a bucket of water, emptied a bottle of chemicals into it and used the scoop to splash the water across the line.

He said this was how the wheels of vehicles coming out of the infected zone would receive a bird-flu-killing dose of disinfectant.

By the roadside were other weapons: a wooden chair, a hand-held sprayer and a sign reading: 'Disinfection Station'.

Gesturing with his hand, a policeman wearing a surgical mask barred us from crossing the line, saying: 'The area is sealed.' On the other side of the line, 56,000 chickens were slaughtered in just five hours - more than 11,000 per hour - to try to prevent the disease's spread outside a 3km radius of the affected farm.

All birds within a 5km radius, about 14,000, must be vaccinated.

There was a checkpoint 8km outside the village on the only road in. Buses packed with travellers returning after the Lunar New Year holiday frequently passed the checkpoint in both directions but police did not stop vehicles.

In a nearby Stone Buddha Temple village, residents seemed oblivious to the outbreak on the other side of the line.

Wuxue city, which administers Zhangling, is on the north bank of the Yangtze river and it is between Chongqing municipality and Shanghai. A major north-south railway link passes close to the city. Residents dismiss fears that one infected bird escaping the net around Zhangling could spread the disease to other provinces.