Guangdong is preparing for the worst-case scenario of a human influenza pandemic, with plans to requisition schools and build tented hospitals - even as mainland authorities claim to have controlled bird-flu outbreaks among poultry in three provinces. 'Zhong Nanshan says there is no human-to-human transmission at the moment but he doesn't rule that out. He thinks we should focus on preventive measures,' a Guangdong government source said, quoting the Guangzhou doctor who is leading the province's battle against bird flu. The province would isolate any patients with bird flu, he added. The government was looking to Dr Zhong to come up with a cure for bird flu and to practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine to develop herbal medicine that everybody could take to prevent infection, he said. 'But once you get it there is no cure. If that happens, we will requisition schools and build tent hospitals, as in Xiaotangshan [a temporary hospital built in Beijing to treat Sars patients] ... We are preparing for the worst,' the source said. The World Health Organisation's country head in Beijing, Henk Bekedam, said it was 'very important that Guangdong is [making preparations] ... but it doesn't mean that [the human pandemic] will happen'. 'They will be prepared for it ... that's very encouraging.' The Guangdong government source did not have specific details of the measures to deal with a pandemic, but said there were only 180,000 beds in Guangdong's hospitals, so non-critical patients with other conditions would be discharged to make room for bird flu patients. The Guangdong health department was encouraging vaccination of school children against influenza but would not make the measure mandatory because of the high cost of vaccines, the government source said. Even if the central government could afford to vaccinate every Chinese citizen, the world output of 300 million vaccine shots a year would not meet demand. The current vaccine does not prevent H5N1 but helps doctors distinguish patients suffering from normal influenza from those infected with bird flu. The department is also distributing leaflets and putting up posters telling people to be health-conscious and hygienic and to strengthen their immune system, wear masks, avoid crowded places and see a doctor as soon as they fall ill. 'The health department wants them to have all information but the government worries that people will panic if they know too much and the business sector is afraid that their business will be affected,' the source said. 'But if there is a pandemic, we will definitely make an announcement.' Drug companies have been told to stockpile materials for making antiviral and anti-flu medicine. But the source said a pandemic was unlikely because 'our lifestyle is different from Europeans' and Chinese people had better immunity.