Massive chicken cull in Thailand as experts await human avian flu test results

Jul 31, 2006 (CIDRAP News) – A Thai province is culling 300,000 chickens after a laboratory test confirmed an avian influenza outbreak, and the country's health ministry is monitoring 80 patients who are suspected of having avian flu.

The Bangkok Post reported today that the cull in the Nakhon Phanom province is being carried out on 70 farms by 1,500 health officials. The culling was prompted by the deaths of several chickens. The province's governor, Nikhom Kerdkhanmak, told the Post that samples of chicken carcasses were sent to the Centre for Veterinary Research and Development in Kohn Kahn, and results showed that the chickens were infected with bird flu; the strain was not specified in the story. Last least week, 40,000 chickens were culled in the province as a precautionary measure.

Health officials are disinfecting households and vehicles, the Post said, and poultry movement has been banned along the Thailand-Laos border. Last week, Laos reported its first major outbreak of H5N1 avian influenza in more than 2 years, and the poultry farm where the disease surfaced borders part of Thailand.

Meanwhile, the Post reported that 19 Thai provinces have patients on the suspected avian influenza watch list. All are in northern and central Thailand. The Phichit province, where a 17-year-old boy died of H5N1 avian flu last week, has the most patients on the list (18). Provinces with several patients on the list include Sukhothai (14), Phitsanulok (9), Suphan Buri (9), and Nan (7). Nakhon Phanom, the site of the major chicken cull, has two patients on the list.

The province of Buri Ram has banned cockfighting matches in August after mysterious poultry deaths were reported, the Post reported.

In other avian flu news, representatives from 11 Asian countries gathered in New Delhi recently at a conference sponsored by the World Health Organization, according to a report from Reuters. The health officials agreed to join forces to fight the spread of avian flu. They plan to share details about their outbreak investigations and pledged to collaborate on the development and production of drugs, vaccines, and diagnostic tests. They also said they would pool their research efforts.

The report noted that Thai officials said they would push for early use of osteltamivir (Tamiflu) in suspected H5N1 avian flu cases, rather than wait for lab results.

An official from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) told the group that the Asia-Pacific region has lost an estimated $10 million because of avian flu outbreaks, The Financial Express, an Indian newspaper, reported today. FAO regional representative He Changchui said more than 200 million birds have been culled over two and a half years.

See also:

Jul 28 CIDRAP News article "Avian flu strikes again in Laos"

Jul 26 CIDRAP News article "Thailand's first avian flu case of 2006 confirmed"

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