Avian flu crops up again in Thailand

May 27, 2004 (CIDRAP News) – An avian influenza outbreak was reported at a research farm in northern Thailand yesterday, less than 2 weeks after government officials expressed confidence that the country was free of the disease.

A Thai agricultural official said the outbreak occurred on a Chiang Mai University research farm, according to a report today by the Bangkok Post. The official, Yukol Limlaemthong, said faculty members noticed unusual chicken deaths May 19.

The carcasses tested positive for avian flu, the report said. It did not specify whether tests showed the H5N1 virus subtype, which was blamed for the widespread outbreaks in Thailand and seven other Asian countries earlier this year. The outbreaks led to 34 human illness cases with at least 23 deaths.

More than 1,000 chickens were destroyed to contain the new outbreak, the Post reported. Yukol said authorities did not order the culling of chickens at neighboring farms because the boundary of the outbreak "could be clearly delineated," according to the story. The farm is in an isolated area and all movements of poultry there are under the government's tight control, Yukol said.

The story also said a provincial livestock official speculated that the infection could have come from migrating birds. He said chickens within 5 kilometers of the research farm were being tested for the virus.

The government had expressed near-certainty that the country was free of avian flu May 14, which marked the end of 21 days of monitoring at the site of the last previous outbreak, according to an Associated Press (AP) report yesterday.

The AP report, contradicting the Post story, quoted Yukol as saying the new outbreak was believed to have started May 22.

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