Farmers in Thailand warned to report cases of avian flu


Wed, Jul 21, 2004 - Page 5

Thailand yesterday urged poultry farmers to immediately report all suspected bird flu cases in a bid to prevent a second wave of human infections that killed eight people earlier this year.

The warning reflected increased urgency in government efforts to tackle Thailand's second wave of bird flu -- now reported in 27 places in 13 provinces in recent weeks -- following its major bout with the disease during the first few months of this year.

Health Minister Sudarat Keyuraphand reminded farmers and other members of the public in a written announcement that people are required to report suspected cases, and that violators face a maximum three-year jail term and a 5,000 baht (US$125) fine.

The warning, including a list of precautions that people can take to avoid becoming infected, will be distributed and posted in every community in the country, she said.

"The main message is we must prevent the transmission from birds to humans by banning the sales and movement of dead animals and eggs. The disinfection must also be done under standard guidelines," she said.

The Livestock Department said on Monday that the virus is suspected to have spread to nine other provinces including Bangkok.

Bird flu devastated the poultry industry in many countries in Asia, including Thailand, earlier this year, when tens of millions of chickens died or were culled. The virus also jumped to humans, killing eight people in Thailand and 16 in Vietnam.

The Thai government last week ordered the culling of birds on all farms where 10 percent or more of chickens have died of unexplained reasons.

Officials were also ordered to take random blood tests of chickens at farms across the country by the end of the month.

More than 120,000 birds including chickens and ducks have already been culled nationwide during the last month. The government has refused to import bird flu vaccines on the ground that close surveillance and culling are the best solutions.