Avian flu confirmed in Afghanistan, Myanmar

Mar 16, 2006 (CIDRAP News) – Afghanistan and Myanmar have joined the company of countries hit by H5N1 avian influenza with the confirmation today of the virus in chickens in both countries, according to news service reports.

A United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) laboratory in Italy detected the virus in chickens from Afghanistan's capital, Kabul, and the eastern province of Nangahar, according to an Agence France-Presse (AFP) report. Afghan officials had reported finding an H5 virus in poultry and wild birds 4 days ago.

A joint statement from the FAO and the Afghan government said birds in the affected areas would be killed immediately, their owners would be compensated, and poultry markets would be closed and disinfected, AFP reported.

The story said the FAO warned last month that avian flu would be "virtually unavoidable" in Afghanistan because of its location on bird migration routes.

Pakistan, which borders Afghanistan on the south and east, recently reported an H5 virus in chickens on two farms in its Northwest Frontier province. Pakistani officials are awaiting confirmatory test results from a European Union laboratory and have said the virus is highly likely to be H5N1, according to the AFP report.

H5N1 avian flu has also been reported in Iran, Afghanistan's neighbor to the west. Iranian officials reported in mid-February that the virus had killed 153 swans in a wetland area.

Tests by an FAO lab in Bangkok today confirmed the H5N1 outbreak in Myanmar, according to another AFP report.

Myanmar's military government reported Mar 13 that an H5N1 outbreak had been discovered in the central town of Mandalay. The government had run its own lab tests but also sent samples to labs in Thailand and Australia, according to AFP.

A veterinary official in Mandalay said the virus might have come from migratory birds or chickens imported from China, the story said.

Health officials have destroyed 12,500 chickens and quarantined 43 farms near Mandalay since the outbreak was found, AFP reported. The government lifted its news blackout today and printed a full page of information about avian flu in a state-run newspaper.

The FAO and the World Health Organization (WHO) said they were sending experts to Mandalay, and the WHO said it had given the government enough oseltamivir (Tamiflu) to treat 100 people, though no human cases have been reported, according to AFP.

A Myanmar-based WHO official, who declined to be named, told AFP, "We are also giving them equipment including masks and gloves. We are very satisfied with their work. They've done their best. They are stepping up surveillance measures."

In other news:

  • Malaysia today reported a new outbreak of H5N1 in an "eco-park" and a village in the northern state of Perak, according to AFP. Last month Malaysia reported H5N1 on one chicken farm, the country's first outbreak since late 2004.
  • Initial tests pointed to avian flu in the deaths of hundreds of poultry in a kibbutz in southern Israel, AFP reported. Dead chickens were also found in communities near the kibbutz in the Negev desert, the story said. Israel has had no confirmed H5N1 outbreaks.

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