Bird flu spreads further in Asia
Three Asian nations reported new outbreaks of bird flu in poultry yesterday, a day after health experts unveiled a $1 billion global plan to halt the spread of the deadly virus.
China, Vietnam and Thailand said they had more outbreaks as the region heads into the northern winter, when the H5N1 avian flu virus seems to thrive.
Vietnam, where the virus has killed 42 people, will send soldiers and police to help contain avian flu. Agriculture Minister Cao Duc Phat urged provincial authorities to do more.
"We must launch a campaign to build each hamlet, each commune into a stronghold for fighting the epidemic," Mr Phat was quoted as saying in Nong Nghiep Vietnam, a newspaper run by his ministry.
"In an emergency, the army will be deployed to isolate the infected area," he said. Adding to the unease, the sudden death of a flock of ducks also suggested a more virulent strain was at work, another Vietnamese official said.
A highly pathogenic form of the H5N1 virus is endemic in poultry across Asia, where it is known to have infected 124 people and killed 64. Indonesia reported another death on Wednesday, but the cause is still subject to final test results.
The virus has been found in birds in eastern Europe and there are fears migrating flocks could take it to the Middle East and Africa.
Experts fear H5N1 could mutate into a form that passes easily among people, just like human influenza. If it does, millions could die because they would have no immunity.
Chinese state media reported two new outbreaks in poultry in the northeast, bringing the total number of outbreaks to six since the start of last month. Thailand said tests confirmed the presence of H5N1 in two provinces next to the capital Bangkok, a city of 10 million people.
Health and veterinary officials from around the globe announced a strategy on Wednesday aimed at rooting out bird flu among poultry and stopping it from spawning a pandemic.
Italy has found a form of the H5N1 virus in a wild duck, but the Health Ministry said yesterday it was not dangerous and bore no relation to the strain of Asian avian influenza.
The H5N1 virus was identified on Wednesday in a testing centre in northern Italy, the health ministry said. It added the virus was genetically similar to strains frequently found among wild waterfowl in Europe, and not highly pathogenic.
"There is no alarm. There is no new concern," ministry official Elisabetta Alberti Casellati said.