Thailand says its avian flu battle is over

May 5, 2005 (CIDRAP News) – After an arduous 10-month battle against the H5N1 avian influenza virus, Thailand has declared itself free of the disease, the Bangkok Post reported today.

The country hasn't identified a human case of H5N1 infection since the death last October of a 14-year-old girl in Sukhothai province, but poultry outbreaks had continued. Yesterday marked the end of a 3-week surveillance period at a farm in Lop Buri, the last place to have reported an H5N1 outbreak, the newspaper said.

This is the first time Thailand has been free of avian flu since the disease re-emerged last July, officials told the Post. The Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives will continue to watch for any re-emergence of the virus, said ministry assistant Charal Trinvuthipong. Officials will continue to conduct bi-weekly checks for avian flu.

In addition, the ministry has recruited more than 600 temporary workers to watch for avian flu. They will work in nine northern and central provinces where H5N1 kept reappearing: Ang Thong, Lop Buri, Kampheng Phet, Nakhon Sawan, Phichit, Phitsanulok, Sukhothai, Suphan Buri, and Uttaradit, the Post reported.

Along with the surveillance, officials will seek closed-system poultry-raising methods for small-scale farms, said Sudarat Keyuraphan, agriculture and cooperatives minister.

The end of the outbreaks is good news for Thailand's poultry industry. Chicken exports are expected to reach a target of 300,000 tons this year, Anan Sirimongkolkasem, president of the Thai Broiler Processing Exporters Association, told the Post in a separate story today. That's nearly a 40% increase over the previous year.

Thailand is chiefly shipping cooked products because raw poultry remains banned in major export markets, he said.

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