12/09/2005, 00.00
ASIA

Five-year old boy is Thailand's 14th bird flu victim

Two additional human bird flu cases are confirmed in China. New outbreaks are reported in Vietnam as the economy goes into a tale-spin.

Bangkok (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Another bird flu death reported in Thailand. Another two human bird flu cases are confirmed in China. Virus cripples Vietnam's economy. A common strategy plan is to be presented next week at a meeting in Kuala Lumpur of affected East-Asian countries.

Thailand. Health Minister Pinit Jarusombat announced that a five-year-old child was the 14th victim of the bird flu. The boy from Ongkharak district, in the central province of Nakhon Nayok, fell ill on November 25. He was hospitalised only on December 1 and succumbed six days later.

Fourteen members of his family and acquaintances are currently under observation.

Some 1,800 birds were culled in the area, which is about 100 kilometres (60 miles) north of Bangkok.

Since January 2004, Thailand has had 22 human bird flu cases and has had to cull about 60 million birds.

Export poultry is an important part of the national economy, and the government has deployed some 900,000 volunteers throughout the country to monitor and report any suspect case.

Vietnam. New outbreaks were reported in the provinces of Son La and Quang Tri. Thousands of geese were culled.

Since October there have been outbreaks in 25 of the country's 64 provinces and 3.1 million birds have been destroyed.

Poultry sales have dropped as a result of the many outbreaks; losses have reached US$ 44 million per month with thousands of farmers on the brink of bankruptcy.

"Many farmers are now above the poverty line but natural disasters and avian influenza can drop them back to below," said Jordan Ryan, the UN Development Programme chief in Vietnam.

"Concrete action is needed to help farmers sell poultry and limit growers' losses," Agriculture Minister Cao Duc Phat said.

His ministry wants to promote poultry consumption and organise production lines to ensure bird flu-free products since recent outbreaks have only plagued the north. No poultry infections have in fact been found in southern Vietnam in the last three weeks.

Since late 2003, there have been 93 human bird cases and 42 deaths.

China. Health Ministry officials confirmed two more outbreaks.  A ten-year-old girl in Ziyuan Country (Guangxi province) has shown typical symptoms since November 23. Her older sister died recently but no test was performed on her body to determine whether the bird flu was responsible. Instead, it was cremated. 

A woman farmer, 31, from Heishan Country (Liaoning) was in the hospital between October 30 and November 29. Early tests proved negative in her case, but additional ones confirmed she had contracted the virus.

Five more human bird flu cases were confirmed, but local authorities are reporting many more suspect cases for which confirmation is still needed.

Since October Beijing has reported 25 outbreaks in poultry; the latest one last week in Xinjiang region. (PB)

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