Archived news about bird flu (avian influenza) (July 2004
Avian flu quarantine in east China province ends
With the removal of the yellow cordon around Juchao District on Wednesday morning, Chaohu City of east China's Anhui Province ended its 21-day battle against the highly pathogenic avian influenza.
Starting from 8:30 a.m., vehicles and people were found going in and out of the isolated area freely.
Director Li Jiafa of the Anti-avian-flu Headquarters of Juchao District said that no new cases had been suspected or confirmed for 21 successive days since bird flu was confirmed and the last batch of birds in the affected area were culled as stipulated. Experts in animal epidemics and officials concluded after inspections that the disease had been eradicated in the district and the area met the requirements for the lifting of isolation orders as stipulated in the Emergency Counter measures Against Avian Influenza of China and the Technical Standards Regarding theFight Against Avian Influenza. Li said that to play it safe, monitoring will continue and no poultry breeding would be allowed in the area immediately. Meanwhile, efforts are being made by local governments to reduce the losses of farmers.
After the national avian flu reference laboratory confirmed on July 6 that the chicken's death in the district was caused by H5N1,a highly pathogenic bird flu virus, the provincial government started an emergency plan to set up three quarantine stations at major entrances to the affected spot. All poultry within a radius of three km from the infected spot were culled, disinfected and buried deeply.
On July 8, all poultry within a radius of three to eight km were given compulsory immunization. Some 168 people suspected of being infected were released from medical observation on July 19.
Thai children cleared of diagnosis
Experts in Vietnam confirmed today that avian influenza has spread to an 11th province, the southern Mekong Delta province of Long An, a major poultry breeding area, according to news service reports.
In Thailand, at least 17 provinces have been hit with avian flu since the disease resurfaced this month. Two children who last week were thought to have the disease have now been found to have human influenza instead, but a new suspected case involving a 51-year-old farmer is being monitored. Of 20 suspected cases in Thais, 17 have been confirmed as not being avian flu, according to the Chinese news agency Xinhua. The others await laboratory test results.
A Thai government official on Tuesday characterized the second outbreak this year as far different from the first, Xinhua reported. Only 205,000 fowl have been culled since Jul 3, compared with up to 60 million in the previous outbreak, Deputy Prime Minister Chaturon Chaisang was quoted by the Thai News Agency as saying on Tuesday. The government also defended its information disclosure system on the disease, calling it transparent.
Avian flu experts will meet in Thailand beginning on Jul 28 for a 3-day meeting aimed at standardizing ways of testing and encouraging governments to discuss outbreaks. Representatives from several Asian countries as well as the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), and the World Health Organization (WHO) were expected to participate, Reuters reported.
Economic woes caused by avian influenza could worsen following the European Union's announcement yesterday that it was extending its ban on imports of poultry products, and pet birds from nine Asian countries hardest hit by avian flu earlier this year, news services reported. The ban, which was due to expire Aug 15, will continue through Dec 15 for Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Pakistan, South Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam.
Avian flu has claimed 24 human lives in Asia this year, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported. A WHO official based in Thailand, Dr. Somchai Peerapakorn, told The Nation, a Thai newspaper, on Jul 26 that the WHO is willing to develop a human vaccine to prevent the spread of avian flu from poultry to humans.
Creating such a vaccine would be a challenge, said Michael T. Osterholm, PhD, MPH, director of CIDRAP, publisher of this Web site. He noted that initial studies indicate current H5N1 strains obtained from humans have been poorly immunogenic when made into vaccines and used in test animals.
Osterholm raised three concerns that illustrate challenges to creating the vaccine: A successful human vaccine would need to spark production of sufficient antibodies to prevent illness. Then would come the question of how much vaccine can be made. Third, if human-to-human transmission were to occur, there is no evidence that a vaccine produced for current strains would protect people.
Thailand declares a new bird flu outbreak, 2 suspected cases of transmission to humans
Thailand yesterday confirmed another bird flu outbreak among chickens in a northeastern province, an official said, bringing to 17 the total number of areas hit by the disease since it resurfaced in the country earlier this month.
A farmer in Chainat province told authorities his 60 chickens had died mysteriously, and tests confirmed they had the deadly H5N1 strain of avian influenza, said Auaychai Chaiyuttho, a provincial Livestock Department official.
The announcement came days after more than 20,000 chickens were culled at a farm in nearby Nakhon Sawan province, where bird flu outbreaks have been discovered in two areas.
Meanwhile, the Public Health Ministry was monitoring two suspected human cases of the disease in northeastern Nong Khai province.
Two boys, aged 10 and 12, were hospitalized earlier this week after becoming sick with bird flu-like symptoms, said Dr. Charal Trinvuthipong, director-general of the Department of Communicable Disease Control.
He said the boys, who were neighbors, handled the carcasses of chickens shortly after the birds died. Laboratory test results are expected within two weeks, he said.
"It looks like bird flu but we can't confirm it at the moment," Charal said.
Avian influenza devastated poultry farms across Asia earlier this year. Tens of millions of chickens died or were slaughtered. The virus also jumped to humans, killing eight people in Thailand and 16 in Vietnam
Bird flu lands in Bangkok
The latest wave of bird flu has rolled into Bangkok, with the three outer districts of Min Buri, Don Muang and Nong Chok confirmed, the Livestock Development Department said yesterday.
Avian influenza has also been confirmed in the northeastern province of Nong Khai, bringing the number of provinces infected by the deadly H5N1 virus to 15, DirectorGeneral Yukol Limlaemthong said. The nine provinces on the watchlist for suspected cases are Phichit, Phetchabun, Nonthaburi, Nakhon Nayok, Trat, Nan, Phitsanulok, Songkhla and Narathiwat. The bird flu situation in Bangkok is under control and should have no impact on poultry processing plants located there and in surrounding areas, Deputy DirectorGeneral Chaweewan Liewwichak said.
“Only cooked chickens are destined for export, so they pose no health risk to consumers,” she said.
The Livestock Department was considering using a nonlethal chemical spray to chase away wild birds from selected zones in a bid to prevent the spread of bird flu, she said.
National park officials have been tasked to map out a five year plan aimed at closely monitoring the migration of wild birds and minimising their exposure to chickens, an official said.
Agriculture Minister Somsak Thepsuthin said many doubts must still be cleared before a government ban on vaccines for bird flu could be lifted.
The European Union, which still accepts cooked chicken products, has reportedly warned that it would ban all poultry imports from Thailand if the government decided to go down the route of vaccination against the virus.
Somsak said he has instructed authorities to ensure safety standards of chickens for export.
Domestic sales of processed chickens have dropped by Bt2 billion following the reemergence of bird flu, said Nakrop Jutipongraksa, an executive of poultry industry leader Saha Farms.
Overseas sales have slowed, causing his company to lose up to Bt6 billion in earnings while incurring additional storage expenses.
“Major markets, like South Korea, Japan and the European Union, have imposed stringent measures for health inspection resulting in delays and added costs,” Nakrop said.
Chicken flocks at the country’s largest poultry producer, Charoen Phokapand, were free of bird flu because they were all farmed using closed systems, president Thanin Jiarawanon said
Bird flu has re-emerged in Indonesia's East Java, killing nearly 2000 chickens, but the agriculture ministry said on Wednesday the deadly virus that ravaged Asian poultry flocks early this year was under control.
"In June, we had new cases in Tulung Agung in East Java province killing 1760 chickens. However, there were no fresh cases from the other provinces in the country," said ministry spokesman Hari Priono.
He did not say if the strain was the same one that killed 24 people in Asia earlier this year. Eight Thais and 16 Vietnamese died after they came in close contact with poultry infected with the H5N1 strain, which was first detected in Hong Kong in 1997.
Priono said case in East Java and recent outbreaks in Thailand, China and Vietnam had prompted the government to distribute more than 300 million doses of vaccine across Indonesia to keep the virus from spreading.
"The situation is under control through nine strategic methods," said Priono. He did not elaborate.
Authorities say no cases of human infection have been found so far in Indonesia, but outbreaks this year have cost the poultry industry at least 7.7 trillion rupiah ($NZ1.32 billion).
Suspected human case of avian flu reported in Thailand
A woman in Thailand, where avian influenza has resurfaced in the past month, may have the first human case of the illness since the outbreaks earlier in the year, a Bangkok newspaper reported today.
An online report by The Nation said a 53-year-old woman in the central province of Lop Buri was hospitalized Jul 14 with symptoms of suspected avian flu, including a heavy cough, high fever, and breathing difficulty. The woman subsequently improved and was out of danger today, the story said.
The woman, identified as Jamras Pumthongdee, was among 29 villagers who touched a dead chicken in an area affected by avian flu, the provincial chief public health officer was quoted as saying.
In outbreaks last winter and spring, H5N1 avian flu infected 34 people in Thailand and Vietnam, killing 15 Vietnamese and 8 Thais, according to World Health Organization (WHO) figures. All those cases resulted from exposure to poultry, not from person-to-person transmission. But disease experts are concerned that the virus could combine with a human flu virus and acquire the ability to spread from person to person, potentially igniting a flu pandemic.
Avian flu has erupted in 13 Thai provinces and in Bangkok in recent weeks, The Nation reported. Yukol Limlaenthong, chief of the Thai government's livestock department, said about 160,000 birds have been killed in the containment effort, according to the story. A report by Agence France-Presse yesterday said the disease has cropped up in 15 provinces.
In Vietnam, small outbreaks of avian flu have occurred in nine central and southern provinces in recent weeks, the Associated Press (AP) reported today. The report said government officials and farmers met in Hanoi today to consider vaccinating poultry against the virus, but did not make a decision.
Bui Quang Anh, a Vietnamese veterinary official, said a pilot vaccination program at two farms during the earlier avian flu outbreaks did not work very well, according to the story. It said a Dutch-made vaccine called Intervet was used.
Nearly 50,000 birds have been destroyed to contain the outbreaks in Vietnam, the AP reported.
In other recent developments, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) urged authorities in Asia not to kill wild birds in an effort to stop avian flu. In the Jul 16 statement, Juan Lubroth of the FAO Animal Health Service said, "Killing birds will not help to prevent or control avian influenza outbreaks. Wild birds are an important element of the ecosystem and should not be destroyed."
Although some waterfowl can carry avian flu viruses, "there is no scientific evidence that wildlife is the major factor in the resurgence of the disease in the region," Lubroth said.
The FAO said the major factors in the spread of avian flu include "poor hygienic practices" in the poultry industry and individuals' failure to follow recommended control measures.
The WHO issued a statement Jul 16 urging precautions for all workers involved in culling poultry. Workers should receive human flu vaccine and should wear protective clothing, masks, and goggles, the agency said.
In addition, health authorities should monitor anyone exposed to infected poultry, and antiviral drugs should be made available to treat anyone with a suspected case of avian flu, according to WHO.
FEARS OF NEW CRISIS: Sharp rise in bird-flu cases in Thailand
Officials say the lethal strain has reached Bangkok; Thaksin rules out any vaccination programme
NAKHON SI THAMMARAT - Thailand yesterday announced a sharp increase in outbreaks of a lethal strain of bird flu and confirmed it had reached the capital Bangkok.
Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra sought to play down the crisis, saying yesterday that outbreaks were appearing only sporadically across the country's 76 provinces. He told reporters here that the government had ordered prompt culls when suspected cases were identified, but ruled out any vaccination programme because of fears that the virus could mutate. 'The Agriculture Ministry must watch chicken farms in all provinces to ensure that the disease won't spread out of control,' he added.Updated figures from the Livestock Development Department showed that confirmed cases had been reported in 77 districts within 15 provinces. Most of the new confirmed cases are in the central and northern areas of the country.
Thailand confirmed its bird flu outbreak in Saraburi, Lop Buri and Kamphaeng Phet provinces, the department said in a statement. It also found a possible bird flu virus infection in Bangkok where the department was waiting for laboratory results from the dead chickens.
Meanwhile, the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) urged countries in Asia not to cull wild animals since they were not a major factor in the resurgence of the disease. Last week, Mr Thaksin had ordered the killing of all storks that he believed were behind the latest bird flu outbreaks.However, Mr Juan Lubroth of the FAO Animal Health Service said in a statement: 'Killing wild birds will not help to prevent avian influenza outbreaks. To date, there is no scientific evidence that wildlife is the major factor in resurgence of the disease in the region.'
Eight people died in Thailand and 16 in Vietnam from a bird flu outbreak earlier this year.
The outbreak prompted Thailand - Asia's biggest poultry exporter last year - to kill at least 40 million chickens and other fowls between January and April.
Japan and the European Union - Thailand's two biggest chicken buyers - have banned imports of frozen chicken meat from Thailand since January.
Vietnamese officials also reported more outbreaks of the lethal H5N1 strain of bird flu yesterday. The number of provinces affected has increased to nine, raising fears of another nationwide epidemic.
Mr Ngyen Dinh Bao, head of the veterinary department in the southern province of Ba Ria-Vung Tau, said hundreds of chickens and ducks had died since July 6 - particularly in and around the town of Vung Tau - as a result of the virus.
Local authorities in Quang Ngai province also confirmed that bird flu had been detected in poultry subsequent to the government's highly criticised March 30 declaration that the country was free of the disease.
-- AFP, Bloomberg
Experiment on brid flu vaccine approved in Thailand
The Agriculture Ministry of Thailand has approved an experiment on bird flu vaccine amid re-emergence of the avian influenza in 13 provinces of the country.
The experiment on the H5N1 virus strain of bird flu will be conducted by a team of specialists working in infectious diseases,the Bangkok Post quoted Agriculture Minister Somsak Thepsuthin as saying on Sunday.
A veterinarian from China will be invited to introduce guild lines for the Thai team, he added.
About 100,000 fowl have been culled or died in the past two weeks after bird flu re-emerged in Thailand.
However, the Livestock Development Department opposed such experiment warning vaccination carries potential risks to public health and is unlikely to eradicate the infection.
The department argued that bird flu vaccination works only in countries with a low pathogenic bird flu virus, such as H5N7 or H5N2, which cannot be passed on to humans.
"Vaccination could trigger the virus, mutation and cause a human pandemic eventually," said Yukol Limlaemthong, director-general of the department.
Although bird flu has been confirmed in 13 provinces, livestock officials said the lastest flare-ups were contained to individual poultry farms and had not become an epidemic
WHO continues to be concerned by the simultaneous outbreaks of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza H5N1 in several Asian countries.
(Avian Influenza, necessary precautions to prevent human infection of H5N1, urgent need for virus sharing)
-- Avian influenza - Current evaluation of risks to humans from H5N1 following recent reports
While these outbreaks thus far remain restricted to poultry populations, they nevertheless increase the chances of virus transmission and human infection of the disease, as well as the possible emergence of a new influenza virus strain capable of sparking a global pandemic.
In this context, WHO re-emphasizes the necessity of protecting individuals involved in the culling of H5N1-infected poultry. Workers who might be exposed to H5N1-infected poultry should have proper personal protective equipment (i.e. protective clothing, masks and goggles) since there is a high risk of exposure during the slaughtering process.
In addition to the use of personal protective equipment, WHO is recommending:
-- To avoid the co-infection of avian and human influenza, which could allow for the emergence of a pandemic influenza virus, all persons involved in mass culling operations, transportation and burial/incineration of carcasses should be vaccinated with the current WHO-recommended influenza vaccine.
-- All persons exposed to infected poultry or to farms under suspicion should be under close monitoring by local health authorities. National authorities should also increase their surveillance of any reported clusters of influenza or influenza-like illness.
-- Antiviral treatment should be available on an on-going basis for treatment of a suspected human infection with a Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza virus. If antivirals are available in sufficient quantities, prophylactic use should be considered.
Please see the full list of WHO's interim recommendations for the protection of persons involved in the mass slaughter of animals potentially infected with Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza viruses.
WHO is also urging countries to work on standardized procedures for immediate sharing of all avian influenza virus strains responsible for outbreaks with WHO's international network of laboratories
WHO is depending on the continued collaboration of the national health and agricultural services to establish routine procedures for immediate sharing of avian influenza virus samples. Without such virus samples, WHO will not be in a position to provide proper vaccine prototype strains and related guidance for
Avian Flu: No Need to Kill Wild Birds
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has urged countries in
Gaps in biosecurity
The major factors contributing to the spread of the avian influenza virus are poor hygienic practices related to the production, processing and marketing of poultry, contaminated products, gaps in biosecurity and individuals not following recommended control measures, FAO said. "Hunting wild birds, some of which are listed as endangered, or cutting down trees to destroy roosting sites, is likely to disperse wild birds into new areas, stress them further and could make them susceptible to avian influenza or other diseases," said William Karesh of the Wildlife Conservation Society, based in New York. Improved poultry coops and biosecurity measures to keep farm poultry, including ducks, from coming into contact with free-flying fowl can diminish the risk of disease spread.
Thailand's Bird Flu Virus Spreads to Seven Provinces
Thailand confirmed bird-flu virus infections in two provinces, bringing to seven the number of provinces where the disease has reappeared in the past week, the government said.
Thailand, Asia's biggest poultry exporter, confirmed its bird flu outbreak in Ang Thong and Suphan Buri, the Livestock Department said in a statement. The virus was earlier found in Pathumthani, Sukhothai, Nakhon Sawan, Uttaradit and Ayutthaya.
The Southeast Asia's second-biggest economy posted slower growth in the first quarter from the previous period after a bird flu outbreak prompted the government to kill at least 40 million chickens and other fowls between January and April. Japan and the European Union, Thailand's two biggest chicken buyers, and other countries, have banned imports of frozen chicken meat from Thailand since January.
``The rain and cooler weather probably helps the reappearance of the bird flu virus in several provinces,'' Deputy Prime Minister Chaturon Chaisaeng said in Bangkok. ``Still, the bird flu infections won't be as worse as earlier this year and has been contained in only small area in those provinces.''
Thailand on July 7 confirmed the reappearance of the bird flu virus at a chicken farm in Ayutthaya province, 50 kilometers (30 miles) north of Bangkok, two months after the government declared the country free of bird flu.
Thailand's outbreak may be difficult to control because the virus has been found in ducks transported around the country by farmers, Agriculture Minister Somsak Thepsutin said yesterday.
The current bird flu spread ``is negative for the Thai poultry industry,'' DBS Vickers Securities (Thailand) Co. Ltd. said in today's report to its clients. ``The magnitude of the impact on related listed companies largely depends on the successful containment of the outbreak by the government.''
Charoen Pokphand Foods and GFPT Pcl, Thailand's biggest publicly traded chicken exporters, posted first-quarter losses because of the ban on frozen meat exports. Shares of Charoen Pokphand fell 0.5 percent to 3.76 baht at 10:40 a.m. Bangkok time. GFPT's stock declined 0.7 percent to 13.7 baht.
Bird flu virus hits ducks in Thailand
Thailand announced bird flu outbreaks in two new provinces yesterday and conceded that the virus had spread from chickens to ducks. Seven of Thailand's 76 provinces have been hit by a new wave of bird flu since last week, raising fears of a renewed crisis that killed 24 people in Asia earlier this year.
The Agriculture Ministry confirmed the latest cases in Ang Thong and Suphanburi but said it could not yet confirm it was the H5N1 virus that can be lethal to humans. Suspected cases were also reported in four other provinces.
'The virus was confirmed in ducks and chickens in these two provinces. The authorities have quickly contained the outbreak,' said Mr Yukol Limlamthong, head of the ministry's livestock development department.
The new outbreaks came a day after Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra rejected the reports of ducks being infected with the virus.
Thai officials have sought to play down fears after eight people died in Thailand and 16 in Vietnam from the outbreak earlier this year.
Agriculture Minister Somsak Thepsuthin, however, told reporters he was concerned that the disease could be spread further by ducks. 'What we are concerned about is that the ducks and wild birds ...could be moved from province to province by farmers to eat the leftover padi,' he said. He said the authorities had seized and culled some 2,000 chickens after a farmer tried to drive away some of his birds before test results came through that proved the lethal H5N1 strain was present in his birds.
Chinese researchers have warned that there is only a slender chance of stamping out the bird flu virus in the region. They said the agent was firmly established in duck and chicken flocks and could only be rooted out by a dedicated, long-term campaign.
Meanwhile, Vietnam yesterday confirmed that fresh outbreaks of bird flu were caused by the lethal H5N1 virus.
Agriculture Ministry spokesman Bui Quang Anh said tests carried out by experts from the veterinary department in Ho Chi Minh City had revealed the presence of the virus
New bird flu cases flare up in 2 provinces in Thailand
Ban on transport of poultry ordered in Sukhothai
Three more hotspots in the bird-flu out-break have been identified in Pathum Thani and Nakhon Sawan provinces, a senior Agriculture Ministry official said yesterday.
More than 100 chickens from two farms in Pathum Thani's Lat Lum Kaeo district were destroyed yesterday after birds there were found to carry the flu, said Yukol Limlam-thong, the director-general of the Department of Livestock Development. Samples taken from a farm in the Krok Phra district of Nakhon Sawan tested positive for the virus, he said. The test was conducted after the farm owner asked to move 4,000 chickens, according to Yukol. About 2,000 birds from the farm had already been moved out of the province without permission.
Authorities were working to track down the chickens, believed to have already been slaughtered, he said.
An Ayutthaya man accused of resisting official orders to have his infected chickens destroyed turned himself in to police yesterday. Veera Sripramong, a chicken farmer in Phak Hai district, was charged and later released. Veera said that he did not intend to resist the order. He said he did not have his chickens culled immediately, as ordered by the Department of Livestock Development, because he received the test results late.
Sukhothai's Livestock Develop-ment Office yesterday ordered a ban on the transport of poultry and other birds pending lab results on a possible outbreak in the area. "Effective immediately, the entire Sukhothai province is a controlled zone for the suspected spread of bird flu," provincial chief veterinarian Chatcharee Nittheeranont said. In Klongyang tambon in Muang district, chickens had died unexplainably. Tissue samples were sent for lab analysis, Chatcharee said. Farm operators culled 30,000 chickens as a precaution, she said.
With regard to the confirmed bird-flu outbreak in Ayutthaya, provincial livestock chief Asanee Yandeepong denied speculation that livestock officials had conspired with poultry farm operators to fan the spread of the disease in order to inflate compensation payments. "Poultry farmers are devastated by the ruin of their farms. It is unthinkable to try and benefit from their grievances," he said.
Livestock Development Depart-ment director-general Yukol said Mukdahan province was removed from the flu watchlist. "Lab checks confirmed the dead chickens in Mukdahan had not been infected with the viral strain H5N1," he said. "The chickens died due to stress after they were transported on a very long-haul trip to their farm."
Agriculture Minister Somsak Thepsuthin said the second round of bird flu was under control.
Nation Multimedia Group
Bird flu checks at Malaysian poultry farms
Health officials will start checking poultry farms, pet shops and bird sanctuaries near the border with Thailand to prevent a new outbreak of bird flu spreading to Malaysia, a minister said Thursday.
Thailand and China on Wednesday confirmed new outbreaks of bird flu, which swept Asia's poultry industry and killed 24 people earlier this year. Mass culling of birds have begun, and nations in the region have gone on alert for signs of the disease.
Officials said Malaysia escaped the outbreak that hit at least 10 Asian countries earlier this year, and a ban on poultry imports from neighbouring countries remains in place.
The government will intensify security at the northern border separating the two countries to ensure that infected poultry does not enter the country, said Agriculture and Agro-based Industries Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.
Thai officials admitted Wednesday that avian flu, which killed eight people in the country early this year, had re-emerged.
Deputy Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Newin Chidchob said samples taken from a chicken farm in Pakhai district of Ayutthaya province, 70 kilometres north of Bangkok, confirmed the presence of the avian influenza virus.
Muhyiddin told reporters that while Malaysia has so far been free from the disease, the government will remain vigilant against any possible outbreak, he said.
The bird flu outbreak which affected some 10 Asian nations killed at least 23 people. The disease also led to the culling of millions of chickens.
Scientists trace origins of deadly avian flu
It will be difficult to eradicate avian influenza, according to scientists who tracked the genetic origins of the virus.
The H5N1 virus causes a highly pathogenic type of bird flu that killed 24 people in 2003-04 in Asian countries.
Our results suggest that H5N1 viruses with pandemic potential have become endemic in the region and are not easily eradicable," Dr. Yi Y Guan, of the University of Hong Kong, and his colleagues wrote in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature.
"These developments pose a threat to public and veterinary health in the region and potentially the world, and suggest that long-term controls are required," they added.
The scientists say "Z genotype" of the H5N1 strain was responsible for this year's deaths. The team studied how it evolved from an ancestor thought to be responsible for an outbreak that killed people in Hong Kong in 1997.
The H5N1 virus is not able to spread between humans. Scientists fear if the virus gains the ability, it could mutate more quickly into a form that people have no immunity against, triggering a pandemic.
The researchers warn the risks can only be reduced, but not eliminated, by culling birds.
They say domestic ducks in southern China likely played a key role in generating the virus, and wild birds may have contributed to its spread in Asia.
Written by CBC News Online
Latest Asian bird flu outbreaks were expected
New outbreaks of bird flu in Asia have come as no surprise and follow warnings that the potentially deadly virus might still be circulating, the chief of the animal health service of the United Nations food body said on Thursday.
The strain of bird flu that killed 24 people in Southeast Asia early this year has erupted again in Thailand and China, and a strain of the virus that is not lethal to humans has appeared in Vietnam.
"It was not a surprise. It was expected," said Joseph Domenech, chief of the animal health service of the Rome-based U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), just back from a trip to Thailand and Vietnam.
"We have been constantly warning countries, saying there is no reason to think that the virus is not still circulating," he told Reuters from Rome.
The epidemic earlier this year, in which 100 million fowl died or were culled, was blamed on migratory birds.
The Thai government expects more recurrences of the bird flu virus that killed eight people earlier this year because wild birds are carrying it, officials in Thailand said on Thursday.
The U.N. World Health Organisation (WHO) said no human cases of bird flu had been reported in Asia, but called for greater surveillance of people exposed to infected birds, especially those working in the poultry industry.
"The latest information that we have is that these are all bird events," WHO spokesman Dick Thompson told Reuters in Geneva. "The only thing we can encourage is that there be heightened human surveillance."
The Paris-based world animal health body OIE said on Wednesday that the new bird flu cases found in China and Thailand were likely to be part of the same outbreak that appeared earlier this year.
Domenech said the FAO was stepping up its support of veterinary services in the affected countries, and was sending an expert to Vietnam early next week.
FAO already has people working in the affected countries.
"We can see that in China, Thailand and Vietnam, the response from the authorities was quick and clear and transparent. In slaughtering the chickens, the three countries have done well. What has to be strengthened is surveillance and control of the movements of poultry," Domenech said.
China culled more than 20,000 chickens in central Anhui province to isolate the new outbreak of bird flu, a local official said on Thursday.
"We need more traceability and more knowledge of the movements of chickens from village to village," Domenech said.
He said improved farming techniques to prevent the interaction between wild birds and domestic poultry were needed to prevent wild birds from spreading the virus further.
He said vaccination, currently banned in Thailand and Vietnam, was a useful additional tool if carefully planned.
Vaccines were now widely used in countries such as Indonesia and Pakistan, he added.
"FAO is working to reassess the long-term control and prevention of avian influenza," Domenech said. "It is not an easy task to eradicate it."
Scientists called on Wednesday for better control measures to prevent an influenza pandemic.
Thailand and China said the outbreaks of the H5N1 strain of bird flu on farms, which first emerged in 1997 in Hong Kong, were under control.
But scientists who studied the origins of the strain said it presented a serious threat to human health and some governments were not doing enough.
Scientists have warned about the threat of another pandemic for years. The influenza outbreak of 1918 killed 20-40 million people worldwide.
Reuters By David Brough (Additional reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva)
new outbreak of bird flu in Thailand's central Ayutthaya province
The new outbreak of bird flu in Thailand's central Ayutthaya province will likely hit the country's poultry industry with shares of its two major chicken exporters plummeted, local media reported Wednesday.
According to the Business Day website, shares of Thailand's two major chicken exporters Charoen Pokphand Foods Plc (CPF) and GFPT closed 0.12 baht lower to 3.94 baht and 0.6 baht lower to 14.1 baht, respectively on Tuesday.
Earlier in the day, the Thai government confirmed the fresh outbreak of bird flu after thousands of chickens died in a farm located in Pak Hai district of Ayutthaya.
Amid fears that the country's export industry will be wrecked again by the deadly bird flu disease, the shares of some of the listed poultry farming companies went down.
The bird flu crisis at the beginning of the year has caused losses of billions of bahts and a 0.5 percent drop in the first quarter gross domestic product (GDP).
The National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB) said that if it was not for the bird flu, Thailand's first quarter GDP would have been 7 percent against the registered 6.5 percent.
The new outbreak has inflicted a negative impact on the short-term sentiment in the market as Thailand could not announce the end of the bird flu outbreak, ahead of being certified by the World Health Organization (WHO), Nutchjarin Kasemsukworarat, an analyst at SCB Securities was quoted by the Business Day website as saying.
Thailand's main importers of poultry products such as Japan and the European Union banned the import of poultry products during the previous outbreak of bird flu.
To ward off the effects of the bird flu crisis, the CPF and GFPT turned to producing more processed chicken for exports.
An analyst at KGI Securities Plc said the new outbreak will cause low revenue for CPF. However, it will not affect the company's exports as CPF does not export frozen chicken but focuses on processed chicken, he added.
BANGKOK, July 7 (Xinhuanet)
Farms raising poultry for Hong Kong and Macao markets in south China's Guangdong province were urged Wednesday to enhance precautions against contact with wild birds and those raised by other units, to stem an outbreak of bird flu.
The alert, sounded earlier in the day by the provincial Administration for Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine, came after the national bird flu reference laboratory confirmed on Tuesday that the latest death of chickens in east Anhui province was caused by the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu virus.
The administration adopted a range of measures to ensure the health of poultry raised in the province for Hong Kong and Macao, including that all poultry are required to be immunized at least twice.
A system to report the situation of bird flu cases was also ordered to be resumed by the administration.
During the outbreak of bird flu in the country over the first few months of this year, no cases were reported at more than 300 poultry farms in Guangdong which serve Hong Kong and Macao.
China confirmed the first contraction of H5N1 strain of bird flu in January at a duck farm in Dingdang township in southern Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region. And in March, the country lifted quarantine on the last two bird-flu affected areas in Lhasa, capital of southwest China's Tibetan Autonomous Region, and Nanning, capital of Guangxi.
During that period, altogether 49 cases of bird flu were confirmed and controlled. So far, no human infection was reported GUANGZHOU, July 6 (Xinhuanet)
Thailand investigates possible fresh outbreak of bird flu
Thailand is investigating a possible fresh outbreak of bird flu after the death of 600 chickens at a farm north of the capital, Bangkok.
Livestock Department chief, Yukol Limlaemthong, says samples have been sent to a laboratory for testing and a result is due within days.
He says if it is bird flu, emergency procedures are already in place to contain its spread.
Thailand's last documented case of the deadly H5N1 strain of the virus was in chickens on a university research farm in the northern city of Chiang Mai in May.
The H5N1 virus has killed 24 people in Asia this year, and has led to the death or destruction of millions of birds.
In recent weeks, Vietnam has also reported a new outbreak of bird and has culled more than 11,000 chickens in the southern Mekong delta.
Bird flu likely to re-occur in Thailand
A new suspected case of bird flu virus that ravaged Thailand's poultry flocks earlier this year was confirmed in a farm in the central Ayutthaya province, said Newin Chidchob, Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives.
The authorities were anxiously awaiting the results of laboratory tests but officials have sealed off a farm where some 7,000 of 44,000 chickens died. The official said test results would be known in a few days, adding that Thailand was well-prepared to control any outbreak. "I instructed the livestock development department last night to strictly control transportation of poultry and impose restrictions not to allow any outsider to visit the farm," he said. Thailand slaughtered at least 36 million chickens during the last outbreak and slapped quarantine regulations on those affected zones earlier this year in an effort to halt the spread of bird flu, which hit 41 of its 76 provinces. At least 12 people were infected with the disease, of which eight died.
NO recurrence of bird flu in Viet Nam? 07/01/2004 -- 21:35(GMT+7) Ha Noi (VNA) - There is no recurrence of the bird flu in Viet Nam, but there were only some scattered cases of dead poultry infected by flu virus in some areas in Dong Thap and Bac Lieu southern provinces, Head of the Veterinary Department Bui Quang Anh told the press on Thursday afternoon. He said all poultry in these areas have been culled and disinfection has been completed. Local authorities now are conducting inspection in order to discover infected poultry for prompt disposal. Explaining the reason for the dead poultry, Anh said the potential risk of the bird flu is still high after the epidemic was stamped out because the virus is able to exist for a period while the environmental disinfection work has not been carried out continuously and the breeding of poultry has been developing rapidly on a large scale after the epidemic was over. Anh also criticised some localities, especially those where poultry breeding is not a key economic sector, for failure to pay due attention to the application of preventive measures. He said that the Vietnamese Government has always paid special attention to preventing the return of the bird flu. Right after announcing that the bird flu was contained, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development has reminded provinces and cities nationwide to take precautions against and continue preventing a recurrence of the disease. Strengthening the veterinary sector's capacity is necessary to prevent the disease when it recurs. The sector is also required to take drastic measures to stop the spread of the disease if it returns, the veterinary official said. The National Bird Flu Control Steering Board has to give guidance and take measures to closely monitor the import of poultry breeds, and immediately stop the import, isolate the area if the epidemic recurs. The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development is devising a project to establish a proper livestock breeding system and coordinate with the concerned parties to build a closed chain for poultry slaughter. The Prime Minister on June 15 instructed localities to continue to prevent the bird flu and promptly recover poultry breeding. The instruction stipulated that localities must take the initiative in checking and supervising the spending budget funds in fighting the bird flu, restoring the poultry breeding, and guiding the cull of sick and dead poultry. Localities also were asked to guide farms and households to re-start breeding poultry only after veterinary hygiene conditions and quarantine period are ensured. Regarding imported poultry breeds, the PM stressed that poultry quarantine and slaughter must be conducted in accordance with the veterinary law. Concluding the press conference, Anh affirmed that if at worst the bird flu recurs, it will not be as serious as it was the last time and the localities, relevant agencies and people can better cope with it because they have been better equipped and have gained experiences in preventing the bird flu
VIETNAM: Fresh bird flu outbreak kills 5,000 fowls in Vietnam
Bird flu has recurred in Vietnam, killing about 5,000 fowls, an official told Xinhua Wednesday. "Tests conducted in the regional veterinary center in Ho Chi Minh City have confirmed that all the fowls were tested positive for an H5 strain of bird flu," said Nguyen Phuc Tai, director of the veterinary department of Bac Lieu province.
Bird flu is becoming more lethal
By Richard Black
Scientists in China and the US injected mice with samples of avian flu virus which emerged in different years.
They found that the newer forms of the virus kill more rapidly than their predecessors. The fear is that this will increase the risks to humans too.
The researchers, whose work is reported in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, say more action is needed to try to curb the spread of the virus.
"WHO have not adequately addressed the human/animal interface adequately. "
They took 21 different samples of H5N1 isolated over the years since 1997, and injected them into mice.
A strong pattern emerged - the most recent viruses kill the mice much faster - which would suggest it's also becoming more lethal to humans.
However, as Professor Robert Webster, from St Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis points out, it has not yet acquired the most dangerous mutation. He said: "The thing that's lacking so far in these viruses is the ability to transmit human to human. "And that's the trick that we hope they don't achieve; but if they do, then we have very big problems." Professor Webster's team has been able to document some of the genetic changes in the virus and understand what they do - for example enabling it to evade bits of the human immune system. However, other mutations remain a mystery. Professor Webster believes the mutations may be caused by the virus jumping from species to species.
As well as becoming more lethal, H5N1 is also now able to reproduce in more parts of the body than before. the trend towards more dangerous forms of the virus is one which the researchers believe will continue.
The concern is that the virus will eventually accumulate enough genetic changes to become good at passing between humans.
Even more of a concern would be the sudden change that could be caused should the flu combine with a human flu in someone's body. The two viruses could swap genes and create a potent hybrid as deadly as the bird strain and as contagious as a regular human strain.
Professor Webster, who runs a World Health Organization-affiliated laboratory studying animal diseases, believes the international community needs to put more resources into tracking bird flu if a major epidemic is to be avoided.
"WHO have not adequately addressed the human/animal interface adequately. It's difficult to do; I think it's on their radar screen now," he said.
The avian flu has forced authorities to slaughter millions of chickens and other fowl in Asia to stem outbreaks in recent years.
VIETNAM: Viet Nam continues preventing reoccurrence of bird flu The Bird Flu Control Steering Committee is still monitoring the former previous bird flu-stricken hot spots for any latent outbreak areas and will continue guiding and taking measures to strictly control imports of poultry breeds and use timely prevention measures should a reoccurrence or outbreak of the epidemic return. The plan was revealed by Director Bui Quang Anh of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD)'s Veterinary Department.
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