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May 16, 2005

 

Thailand says its pigs have no avian flu

 

 

Thailand's Ministry of Agriculture said that no cases of avian flu had been found among Thai pigs, adding that strict measures were put in place to ensure the virus did not spread from poultry to other animals. The H5N1 virus had been discovered among pigs in Indonesia.

 

Dr. Charan Trunwuttiphong, vice minister for agriculture and agricultural cooperatives, stressed that Thailand had been monitoring carefully any signs of the disease in pigs, but had not found any instances of the virus.

 

Under Ministry of Agriculture rules drawn up during the height of the bird flu crisis, farmers are told not to raise chickens and pigs together, and to inform district livestock officers immediately should they discover any animal dying of unknown causes.

 

The Indonesian discovery is particularly worrying given the genetic similarities between pigs and humans. The fact that pigs are often responsible for the spread of the human influenza virus does not help.

 

Scientists are concerned that the spread of avian flu to pigs could lead to the emergence of a new and potentially fatal strain of human flu.

 

Thailand could be declared officially free of the disease within a matter of weeks. However, the government is insisting that careful monitoring for the disease, which is notoriously hard to eradicate, will continue.

 

Agriculture and public health officials will hold a joint meeting in the northern province of Chiang Mai next month to exchange information and views on how to control the disease and prevent its spread to both animals and humans.

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