Sun, Jul 11, 2004 - Page 5 News List

Thailand reports two new cases of lethal bird flu

FLARE-UP In the wake of the winter crisis which left eight people dead, Thai authorities are attempting to play down the latest outbreaks

AFP , BANGKOK

Thailand yesterday confirmed two new cases of the lethal form of bird flu in neighboring northern provinces after warnings of a flare-up of the winter outbreak that left 24 people dead in Asia.

Agriculture Minister Somsak Thepsuthin said some 1,200 birds had been slaughtered in the provinces of Sukhotai and Uttaradit and laboratory tests proved positive for the H5N1 strain of the virus that can spread to humans and prove fatal.

"The laboratory results came out yesterday and it confirmed that in Sukhotai and Uttaradit it was bird flu," he said. "It was left over from last time, so please don't panic."

The Thai authorities have attempted to play down the latest outbreaks, after the winter crisis devastated its billion-dollar poultry industry and left eight people dead. Another 16 people died in Vietnam.

A total of four confirmed outbreaks, in different provinces, have now been reported in Thailand this week following unexpected deaths of birds among a number of household flocks and at poultry farms.

Another 200 birds were also culled on Friday in the northeastern province of Mukdahan, that borders Laos, but test results were yet to come back to show whether they had bird flu, the minister said.

The UN food agency warned on Friday that the bird flu virus was far from over in Asia and urged health officials to tighten up surveillance to head off any new crisis.

New outbreaks have also been reported in China and Vietnam confirming that "the virus is still endemic in the region," the Food and Agricultural Organization said in a statement.

It said the signs were that the virus was still present in at least Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam, with the possibility of triggering new epidemics as poultry farms were re-stocked with vulnerable birds.

Thai officials have insisted that the outbreak was under control and Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said yesterday that Thailand was better prepared because of the crisis.

He ordered the culling of wild storks on Friday which he claimed were responsible for some of the fresh outbreaks in the kingdom.

Thai officials earlier this week confirmed two outbreaks of bird flu in a poultry farm in Ayutthaya province and in home-grown chickens in Pathum Thai province, both in central Thailand north of Bangkok.

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