Thailand Braces for More Bird Flu Outbreaks
BANGKOK Thailand, where 12 people have died in the bird flu epidemic, is braced for more outbreaks of the deadly virus as the weather cools in the next few weeks and migratory wildfowl arrive, a cabinet minister said on Monday.
An intense one-month campaign to wipe out the virus, which ended on Sunday, was extended to the end of February to prevent more outbreaks, Deputy Prime Minister Chaturon Chaisang, chairman of the national bird flu panel, told reporters.
"We expect to see risk of more outbreaks when the cool season comes" later this month, Chaturon said. "It is very likely that we will see many recurrences."
Chaturon reiterated his comments in September that Thailand, a leading chicken exporter before the disease hit early this year, was in for a long three- to five-year battle to wipe out the H5N1 virus, which has also killed 20 Vietnamese.
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra had ordered his ministers to wipe out the bird flu virus by the end of October or face the axe, following Thailand's first probable case of human transmission.
Thaksin said on Monday the concerted efforts had yielded satisfactory results, but the ministries would have to continue pooling their resources to tackle the problem.
"Last month's effort was the first step to identify causes and tackle the problem," Thaksin told reporters before a bird flu meeting. "We now have to finish up in the next couple of weeks."
The cool season, in which experts say the virus thrives, starts in mid-November and draws migratory birds, who they say are probably the main spreader of it.
Chaturon said after the meeting the government's battle against the virus would focus on 21 of Thailand's 76 provinces, which had been hit by repeated outbreaks.
"So far there is no guarantee that when the cool season comes, chickens won't die in large numbers like the last time, but we have made preparations so it doesn't spread to human beings," he said.
The movement of migratory birds would be tracked and the movements of up to 12 million farmed but nomadic ducks who can carry the disease without showing symptoms, he said.
Health and Agriculture ministry officials would have to heighten its public warnings on how the disease spreads after studies showed latest victim, a 14-year-old girl, did not have direct contact with infected chicken like the others.
She lived in a village hit by bird flu and was ill with flulike symptoms for 11 days before she died, officials said.
Source: Associated Press