The World Health Organisation expressed concern yesterday over an outbreak of H5N1 bird flu in Inner Mongolia , the first on the mainland in two months. Its spokeswoman in Beijing, Aphaluck Bhatiasevi, said the WHO had written to the Ministry of Health seeking confirmation of the outbreak and asked if any human infections had been reported. She said the agency wanted to know details of the outbreak, including what type of migratory birds were the source of the infection and how susceptible they were to the virus. The Ministry of Agriculture blamed migratory birds for the outbreak on a farm in an Inner Mongolian village, in which 2,600 chicken and ducks died. A further 91,000 birds had been culled and more than 166,000 vaccinated, Ms Aphaluck noted. 'The outbreak is not a surprise to us, but any new outbreak in any new area is a concern because of the opportunity for further human exposure and possible infection and human cases,' she said. The central government had been prompt in informing the WHO and other international agencies of the outbreak, she said. A memo signed by the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Agriculture on stepping up communication also demonstrated political commitment, she said. However, more should be done to ensure close surveillance and timely reporting at the local level. 'There is strong political commitment but things need to be done,' she said. 'There is a need to increase the capacity to conduct surveillance at the local level.' Vice-Premier Hui Liangyu told the State Council that President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao had ordered stepped-up vigilance against the spread of bird flu. 'At present, some countries have serious outbreaks of avian influenza and since autumn and winter is the peak season for bird flu in China, the situation is grim and our task is heavy,' Mr Hui said. The minister in charge of quarantine authorities, Li Changjiang , said there was no human infection connected with the outbreak and no new flu cases in birds had been reported since containment measures were taken. In Shanghai, authorities began checking the temperatures and sterilising the footwear of travellers arriving by land, sea and air. Xinhua said the city would destroy meat, poultry, eggs and related foods from infected countries.