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Ciptapangan Visitor
Govt braces for bird flu outbreak in the capital
posted by admin on 15/08/06

Sudarat spent yesterday morning in Lat Phrao, in northern Bangkok.

Government officials yesterday said there was high risk of bird flu outbreaks in the capital and announced emergency measures to fight the spread of the deadly disease.

“I am concerned about the Bangkok region…[people who raise chickens and fighting cocks] live in close proximity to their birds, with no separation between the home and the animals’ living quarters,” the Agriculture Minister, Khunying Sudarat Keyuraphan, said yesterday.

Sudarat said her ministry would begin a month-long training program for more than 7,000 volunteers in the capital, who would then go soi-to-soi and door-to-door recording how many families kept egg-laying hens, fighting cocks and show cocks. The volunteers will also educate people on what preventative measures to take, the minister said.

Sudarat spent yesterday morning in Lat Phrao, in northern Bangkok, speaking to about 100 poultry farmers.

“We want people to be briefed and given proper advice on how to avoid catching bird flu and how to protect their animals,” she said.

In addition to the thousands of Bangkok-based volunteers, Sudarat said the ministry would also ask livestock officials to meet urban farmers and hand out protective equipment.

Avian flu has already resulted in the culling of millions of birds in Thailand and the deaths of 16 people since the disease emerged in the Kingdom in 2004.

Although not easily transmitted to humans, it can be caught from prolonged close contact with infected birds.

While the global cost of the deadly H5N1 virus has already topped US$1 billion, according to estimates by the Asian Development Bank, health officials fear the virus could mutate into a form that is more easily communicable among humans, possibly resulting in the deaths of millions of people worldwide.

Despite the new measures announced by the Agriculture Ministry, the Health Ministry downplayed the potential threat to humans.

“We are not at a critical point. There has been no mutation of the virus and Thailand has been cooperating with [international agencies] and cracking down on the problem,” said Health Minister Phinij Jarusombat yesterday.

Health officials in Thailand have tested over 300 potential human victims of bird flu in the past two days, but, according to Phinij, none have tested positive since the last victim of the disease died on August 3. The 27-year-old man was the second fatality this year. His death came less than two weeks after a teenager from the Central Plains region succumbed to the disease.

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