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Bird Flu in Thailand Suspected to be H5N1 Strain

Chickens in Thailand have been found to be infected with a strain of bird flu that may prove to be the deadly H5N1 virus according to senior Agriculture Ministry official// Yukol Limlaemthong on Monday.

Yukol said, "There is a high possibility it is the N1 strain given that the area has had outbreaks before."

Officials have said the H5 virus had been detected on a farm that was in the northern province of Pichit. This was one of seven "red zone" provinces where surveillance had been stepped up this month with test results expected in a few days.

If H5N1 was confirmed, that would be Thailand's first confirmed outbreak of the virus in nearly nine months.

Culling of chickens was carried out by livestock officials in the affected area. Poultry movements have also been restricted within a 10 km (six mile) radius for at least 30 days.

Since its first arrival in late 2003 14 Thais have been killed by the H5N1 virus. The last death occurred in December 2005.

On Monday an 11-year-old girl was admitted to a Pichit hospital with flu-like symptoms after the death of several chickens on her family farm. Test results are due on Tuesday.

Sunee Thirakaroonwongse of the Pichit Provincial Hospital said, "The chickens started to die on July 8 and she helped her mother bury the dead chickens without any protective gear."

Thailand now has one of the strongest surveillance systems in the region.

However following incidents where villagers have ignored government warnings and handled dead chickens have raised fears that public vigilance against the disease is waning.

Since the reemergence of the virus in 2003 in East Asia the global human death toll is now about 132.


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