Avian flu resurfaces in China and Thailand

Jul 7, 2004 (CIDRAP News) – Deadly strains of avian influenza have resurfaced on one poultry farm in China and two in Thailand.

China's first outbreak of H5N1 avian flu since March was reported Jul 3 at a farm in Anhui province in the east-central part of the country, according to Xinhua, China's official news service. The national avian flu reference laboratory confirmed yesterday that the disease was due to an H5N1 virus, Xinhua said.

In a report filed with OIE (the World Organization for Animal Health), Chinese authorities said 1,520 birds on the farm had died of the disease and the remaining 6,640 were killed to contain the outbreak. Xinhua said all poultry within 3 kilometers of the farm were slaughtered, and poultry within 5 kilometers of the affected area were vaccinated.

Because the farm is close to a lake, health officials suspected the disease came from migratory waterfowl, according to OIE. An Agriculture Ministry official said the outbreak has been contained but gave no details, according to an Associated Press (AP) report today.

The Thai outbreaks occurred on two farms north of Bangkok, according to news services. Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported today that 7,000 birds on a farm in Ayatthaya province had died in the past 2 weeks, and the rest of the 44,000-bird flock has been slaughtered.

In the neighboring province of Pathum Thani, officials killed another 800 chickens after 70 had died of suspected avian flu, the AFP report said. It said officials had banned poultry transport in the two areas and ordered further testing for the virus across the country.

Both AFP and Reuters reported that the Thai government had confirmed the presence of H5N1 avian flu in the outbreaks, but other reports suggested that the virus subtype had not been determined.

A Bangkok Post report today quoted officials as saying they had not yet confirmed H5N1 virus in the Ayatthaya outbreak. Yukol Limlaemthong, head of the government's livestock development department, told the newspaper the department needed a few more days to identify the virus. Reports that Yukol filed with the OIE identified the virus in both outbreaks as "type A (H5)."

The Post report charged that the government had failed to promptly warn the public about the new outbreak in Ayatthaya province. It quoted Yukol as saying his department had told the OIE about the outbreak Jul 3 but had not notified the public at the same time, "because we assumed that Thai people no longer care about the re-emergence of bird flu, which has become an ordinary incident here."

The last avian flu outbreak in Thailand was reported on a research farm in late May, but it was not clear whether the virus was H5N1. The outbreak report came less than 2 weeks after agricultural officials had voiced confidence that the country was free of the disease.

H5N1 avian flu was blamed for widespread outbreaks in eight Asian countries earlier this year, resulting in the slaughter of about 100 million poultry. The virus also caused 34 human illness cases with 23 deaths, according to the World Health Organization. Thailand was among the hardest-hit countries, with 12 human cases and 8 deaths.

Vietnam, which also had major outbreaks of avian flu earlier this year, had an H5 outbreak in late June on three farms in the Mekong Delta. Shortly before that, testing of about 10,000 poultry throughout the country had yielded many samples that were positive for an H5 virus.

See also:

OIE update on avian flu in Asia
http://www.oie.int/downld/AVIAN%20INFLUENZA/A_AI-Asia.htm

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