Vol. 4 Num 240 Tue. January 27, 2004  
Front Page

Asian bird flu crisis deepens
Virus spreads to Pakistan

Nine Asian countries are now confirmed or believed to have cases of bird flu, which has killed at least seven people, including a six-year-old Thai boy, and led to the slaughter or death of around 19 million chickens.

Pakistan is the latest country to announce the presence of bird flu, and a United Nations official says that Laos is also affected.

Pakistan had detected a form of bird flu in its chicken population. The commissioner for livestock husbandry said it was not a strain of bird flu that can spread to humans -- something that has happened in other parts of Asia.

"We have confirmed this. The strand that jumps to humans is not in them," Commissioner Rafaqat Hussain Raja said.

Faizullah Kakar, an official at the WHO (World Health Organisation) office in Pakistan, said it had no confirmation of an outbreak of bird flu in the South Asian nation.

The disease has already hit Cambodia, Indonesia, Japan, Thailand, South Korea and Vietnam, with a weaker strain in Taiwan.

In response to the swift spread of the outbreak, countries around the world have banned imports of live and frozen poultry from the infected countries.

The WHO pleaded yesterday with the global scientific community to accelerate the search for a cure. Attempts to tackle the virus are being frustrated by its fast rate of mutation as well as its spread across at least eight countries.

Update of bird flu outbreaks across Asia:


Thailand has announced it now has 10 suspected human cases of the bird flu virus as well as three confirmed cases.

It earlier reported the country's first confirmed death from the disease. A six-year-old boy from Kanchanburi province died late on Sunday night in a Bangkok hospital.

Suphan Buri and Kanchanaburi are the epicentre of Thailand's bird flu epidemic, which has forced a cull believed to have killed nearly 11 million chickens across 24 of the kingdom's 76 provinces.

However, the agricultural ministry has revealed that the virus has now been detected in poultry in eight more provinces.

South Korea

South Korea has reported a new suspected case of bird flu, prompting massive quarantine efforts. An exclusion zone has been established around a farm, south of the capital Seoul, where thousands of chickens died last week.

The disease has hit 16 areas in South Korea, forcing the slaughter of nearly two million chickens and ducks, since it surfaced on December 15.


Vietnam has been the worst affected by the re-emergence of the bird flu.

The World Health Organisation estimates that six people have since died of the human form of the disease.

An eight-year-old girl has also tested positive and is in critical but stable condition, and the WHO says nine other people - some of whom have already died - could have contracted the virus.


Indonesia's government has been accused of covering up a widespread outbreak of bird flu after reports that the disease was first detected up to two months ago.

Until Sunday, officials had blamed an outbreak of viral disease among poultry on a contagious infection.

Although no widespread cull has been ordered, the government says around 4.7 million fowl have died or been killed, mostly on the islands of Bali and Java.


On January 15, Taiwan confirmed two farms in the island's south had detected a different strain of bird flu - the less virulent H5N2 variant - and ordered culls of 55,000 chickens. No detections have been made since.


A farm was found to have bird flu in early January. Agriculture authorities banned the trade of poultry from farms within a 30-kilometre radius and nearly 35,000 birds were culled or died.

The outbreak appears to have been contained and no human infections have emerged.


Bird flu has been found in samples of chickens from a farm outside Phnom Penh that was among three where 3,000 chickens died in recent weeks.

The UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation warns this could be the tip of the iceberg as Cambodia lacks the means to tackle the disease.


A Vientiane-based UN official says thousands of chickens have died in Laos from suspected bird flu.

He has urged the government to come clean about the outbreak to prevent human infections. He says until Friday, the ministry of agriculture was talking about fowl cholera.

Samples from infected chickens in Laos have been sent to Vietnam for testing.


Pakistan is the latest country to announce it has detected bird flu.

An official of the agriculture ministry says the virus has been found in chickens in the southern port city of Karachi.