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Avian Flu in Myanmar Is Worse Than Estimated
posted by admin on 11/04/06
BANGKOK, Thailand -- Bird flu in Myanmar is more serious than originally believed, with 100 outbreaks detected in the country since the deadly avian virus was confirmed last month, an official from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization said.
He Changchui, the FAO's regional representative, said authorities initially believed the H5N1 virus was limited to two outbreaks. "The situation there was more serious than we imagined," Dr. He told a news conference in Bangkok yesterday. "Up to now, there are over 100 outbreaks."
Since confirming the outbreak of bird flu in the Mandalay and Sagaing regions on March 13, authorities have slaughtered some 500,000 chickens and quails at more than 400 farms in efforts to prevent the spread of the disease. Dr. He said Myanmar didn't have the means, including diagnostic equipment and protective gear, to adequately cope with the spread of the disease. Dr. He added that two FAO teams have been working in the country along with other international experts. A team from the World Health Organization is expected to arrive later this month.
"On the human side, the WHO has received a request from the Myanmar government to help, and we are sending a team in at the end of this month," said Somchai Peerapakorn of the WHO's regional office.
David Nabarro, the U.N.'s chief coordinator for avian influenza, said bird-flu officials would concentrate efforts in Myanmar. He stopped in Thailand during a regional tour to assess countries' pandemic preparedness and the work being done to combat bird flu in poultry.
"In Myanmar, we've got some major problems that our colleagues from FAO and WHO have been looking at in detail," Dr. Nabarro said. "We're going to be focusing on Myanmar a lot in the next few days and weeks."
Separately, Dr. Nabarro said Cambodian villagers have failed to report sick birds because they have little or no incentive to do so. Throughout Southeast Asia, villagers who report their sick birds to authorities for culling are meant to be compensated for the market price of the bird. Dr. Nabarro said U.N. officials have been trying to establish why villagers aren't telling authorities when their birds die and "whether that means that the incentive payments for reporting are either not getting through or are not sufficient."
Copyright © 2006 Associated Press
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