Authorities in bird-flu stricken Liaoning province yesterday tried to allay domestic and international fears that outbreaks of the disease were not under control by taking a media contingent to some of the hardest-hit areas. In a trip organised by the State Council Information Office, dozens of international, Hong Kong and mainland reporters were taken to Heishan county where four outbreaks have been officially confirmed since late October. The authorities denied that more outbreaks of the H5N1 bird flu strain had occurred in Liaoning. Xinhua said 83 villages in the province were affected. The number is four times that previously reported. Liaoning authorities said more than 15 million head of poultry were culled in Heishan, Beining city, Nanzhan New District of Jinzhou city and Fuxin , incurring 80 million yuan in slaughter and disinfection costs. They said samples of dead cats, pigs, wild eagles, birds, sparrows and doves taken from different parts of the province had tested negative for H5N1. At least 24 provincial and township officials with another dozen village cadres joined the media group on the trip to the Heishan village of Qitai, where an outbreak occurred on November 6. Qitai villagers were unable to approach the media group without permission from the accompanying cadres. All the poultry in the village appeared to have been culled, while posters and flags that could be seen on walls and the roadside urged a 'Final victory over bird flu' and 'Good prevention and control of the epidemic situation'. Villager Zhao Wenxiang told reporters that all of his 1,800 chickens were culled after the H5N1 virus was found in the village, costing him 14,000 yuan after compensation was paid. 'But we are not sad, because we are happy to know the culling is necessary after the government's continuous education.' The group was also taken to a large-scale poultry production base in Anshan's Taian county, a bird flu-free city that borders Heishan. The farm produces 600,000 chickens and 3,600 tonnes of chicken products each year for export to Hong Kong, but no chickens could be seen from outside the production facility. Officials said the farm was being disinfected and access was strictly limited. One cameraman was allowed to go inside and film the livestock where the factory claimed there were 120,000 head of poultry. Farm vice-manager Tian Shumei said: 'We don't inject our chicken with bird flu vaccines, because our overseas clients require that we conform to international export norms [by not using the vaccines].' She said poultry sales were 'as good as usual', despite a local veterinary official revealing that local poultry prices had plummeted after the outbreak. Taian county vice-chief Jia Delin admitted local poultry sales had dropped, but refused to describe how seriously sales had been hit. 'I will buy you a lunch with 100 kinds of chicken dishes if you stay,' Mr Jia told one reporter. But one young female factory worker said she 'doesn't eat chicken at all, not even the chicken they produce themselves'.