November 11, 2008

Thailand confirms fresh bird flu outbreak at farm in north


The agriculture ministry said Monday (November 10) it has confirmed a bird flu outbreak at a backyard farm in northern Thailand, six months after the kingdom was declared free of the deadly virus.


The H5N1 strain of avian influenza was found in a dead chicken in Sukhothai province, prompting the slaughter of 270 other birds nearby.


"There are no reports of any people sick from bird flu," Agriculture Minister Somsak Prisanananthakul said at a news conference.


"We are now investigating whether the new outbreak was caused by ourselves or an outbreak from a neighbouring country," he added.


The surrounding area will be monitored for 21 days and Thailand will inform the World Organization for Animal Health, Somsak said.


Thailand, the world's fourth-largest exporter of poultry, has slaughtered millions of birds to halt the spread of the virus.


It has confirmed 25 human cases, 17 of them fatal, since the first outbreak of the H5N1 strain in January 2004. The last human fatality was in August 2006.


The H5N1 strain has killed at least 245 people worldwide since late 2003, according to World Health Organization figures. Experts fear it could mutate into a form easily transmissible between people, possibly sparking a global pandemic.