Myanmar, Afghanistan, Cameroon may join H5N1 list

Mar 13, 2006 (CIDRAP News) – Three new countries are reporting avian influenza in birds, although confirmation as H5N1 is awaited, according to news service reports today.

Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, has identified H5N1 in its own laboratories. A Reuters story indicates that UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) official Dr. Tang Zhengping says samples have been sent to labs in Australia and Thailand for confirmation.

A flock of 780 chickens in the Aung Myae Thar Zan Township in the central region of Mandalay was sacrificed after the death of 112 birds. Samples were sent to government labs, where "they believe that they have identified H5N1," according to Laurence Gleeson, an FAO official in Bangkok, as quoted by Reuters.

Whether outside experts will be allowed into Mayanmar to evaluate the situation is uncertain, according to ABC News and other sources. The country is ruled by a military junta and has a reputation of being highly secretive. Because of its lack of infrastructure and unstable economy, some international health experts see the country as high risk in terms of the global fight against avian flu, according to Disease/Infection News and other sources.

News from Cameroon is sketchy, but its government is reporting H5N1 in a duck from a farm near the border with Nigeria, which was the first African country with confirmed avian flu. If a Cameroon outbreak is verified, this will mark the fourth African country with the disease.

In Afghanistan, tracheal swabs from wild and domestic birds in several locations were reported yesterday by the Central Veterinary Laboratory in Kabul as positive for H5 avian influenza, according to the FAO. Samples have been sent to a reference laboratory in Padua, Italy, for confirmation and subtyping.

Elsewhere, H5N1 has been identified in a merganser, a type of wild duck, in Poland, according to Agence France-Presse. Earlier this month, the virus was confirmed in two swans in the country, and has recently been confirmed in a third.

In Switzerland, two more cases of H5N1 have been confirmed, one in a duck and one in a coot. That country's first case, in a goosander (wild duck), was reported earlier in March. AFP says that eight more suspected cases in birds are being tested in a British reference lab.

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