More birds and flu
Via ProMED-mail

Date: Thu 22 Jan 2004
Source: Bangkok Post online, Thu 22 Jan 2004 [edited]

Thailand: Three Suspected Human Cases of Avian Influenza in Three Provinces

Three Thais with pneumonia-like symptoms are being tested for avian
influenza, Public Health Minister Sudarat Keyuraphan said yesterday [Wed 21
Jan 2004]. Tests on blood and sputum samples were being run at the Medical
Sciences Department. Mrs Sudarat's admission follows rumours of confirmed
cases of avian influenza which were believed to have caused the drop in the
stock market index yesterday.

The government has repeatedly said Thailand is free of avian influenza
which has killed five people in Vietnam and devastated poultry populations
in several parts of Asia. Officials say thousands of local chickens are
dying of poultry cholera and respiratory disease, but some farmers accuse
the government of a cover-up.

The minister called an urgent meeting yesterday evening with senior
officials of the Disease Control Department, the Food and Drug
Administration and the Medical Sciences Department. She insisted that no
case of avian influenza [in birds], also known as fowl plague, had been
confirmed and that the country was still considered free of it. Results of
laboratory tests on the three suspected human cases, who had been
hospitalised, would be available in three days.

The three are a butcher from Nakhon Sawan, a child from Suphan Buri and a
farmer living in Kanchanaburi. The three provinces are reeling under
widespread chicken deaths which the authorities insist were not caused by
bird flu but fowl cholera and bronchitis. The Nakhon Sawan butcher has
suffered a high fever and lung infection since 7 Jan 2004, occurring after
the deaths of 70 chickens on his farm. He is in a private hospital in the
Central Region. The Suphan Buri patient was taken to a state hospital in
the province two weeks ago. The Kanchanaburi case was admitted to a public
hospital in Bangkok a few days ago.

The ministry initially listed 17 pneumonia patients who had come into
direct contact with chicken, either at farms or slaughterhouses, but 14
were excluded after tests confirmed their illness was caused by bacteria
and not a virus. Health authorities have expressed concern about the lack
of information from the Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry and what they
see as its reluctant cooperation. The Public Health Ministry recently
launched its own monitoring system. "We don't know what has caused the
illness and death of chickens because that is the responsibility of the
Agriculture Ministry," Mrs Sudarat said. We are, however, concerned about
human health and have closely monitored the possible occurrence of bird flu
even though there was no earlier indications of it." She admitted that
farmers and butchers who came into direct contact with [infected] chickens
were at risk of being infected with bird flu. "We issued a list of initial
precautionary measures that need to be taken to the Agriculture Ministry
last week, but it seems the warning has not reached farmers," she said.
Poultry raisers were advised to wear gloves, shoes and masks every time
they come into direct contact with chickens, and to take a bath or shower
immediately afterwards. People should not fear catching the disease by
eating chicken because bird flu was not contracted this way, Mrs Sudarat said.

The Foreign Ministry would keep other countries informed about the
situation, spokesman Sihasak Phuangketkeow said. Singapore has already
banned live chicken imports from Thailand, Cambodia which has banned
imports of poultry from neighbouring countries, and Laos which has banned
all poultry from Thailand and Vietnam. China has banned chicken imports
from South Korea and Japan, where there is confirmed bird flu, but not from

(By Aphaluck Bhatiasevi and Achara Ashayagachat)

[ProMED-mail acknowledges receipt of a similar press report forwarded by
EVER which is enigmatically entitled "Thailand
has three official confirmed suspect case of human avian flu". Since all
cases of human infection by avian influenza A (H5N1) virus in Vietnam are
considered to have occurred by direct transmission from infected poultry,
rather than by human-to-human transmission, confirmation of the human cases
in Thailand would be indicative of the presence of avian influenza in
poultry in Thailand. - Mod.CP (ProMED-mail moderator)]

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