12/18/2008, 00.00
ASIA
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Bird flu hits Asia again, from China and India to Egypt

Outbreaks are recorded and poultry culled in India, China, Cambodia, and Hong Kong. People are ill in Indonesia and Cambodia. A 16-year girl dies in Egypt. The World Health Organisation urges countries not to let down their guard for a pandemic is still a real possibility.
New Delhi (AsiaNews/Agencies) – With the onset of winter the avian flu has started to strike Asia again, forcing the authorities to cull entire farm stocks. From India and China to Cambodia, people are protesting against the authorities, too overzealous in their mind when it comes to killing the birds but quite shy when they have to compensate farmers for their losses.

India has been the hardest hit. Outbreaks have been confirmed in at least three states. In the last three days health authorities have ordered the culling of 9,373 birds in Malda (West Bengal) despite opposition by local residents, who have reacted to the measure by beating up veterinary officials and hiding their animals. They have complained that compensation for each bird culled (20 to 50 rupees or US$ 0.50 to US$ 1) is not enough.

Hundreds of thousands of poultry have already been culled in Assam and Meghalaya and hundreds of villages are being monitored to nip outbreaks in the bud.

In West Bengal alone, poultry farming is a five billion rupee (US$ 100 million) industry. Last January some four million birds were culled to contain an outbreak.

In Orissa poultry from other states have been banned with checkpoints along inter-state borders to enforce the policy.  Thousands of birds have been culled as an unspecified “precautionary measure”. 

In China 377,000 birds were culled in Jiangsu to contain an outbreak that was declared last Monday in two areas, Dongtai and Hainan County, the first time this has happened in the country since June.

The authorities have blamed migrating birds for the outbreak but no information has been released about the scale of the outbreak. They have also quarantined the area and banned the transport of fowl.

In the last few weeks the avian flu has also been found in Hong Kong, and some 80,000 birds have been culled.

In Taiwan dead poultry are being tested but so far the authorities have not confirmed whether they were infected or not.

In Cambodia the H5N1 virus has infected a 19-year-old man. It has been confirmed that the disease has been found in Kandal province, some 50 kilometres south of Phnom Penh.

In Egypt a 16-year-old girl died last Monday from the virus. She is the country’s 23rd and the world’s 247th person to die since 2003.

In Indonesia last week two more people were diagnosed with having the infection.

The World Health Organisation has told governments “not to let down their guard” because of the distinct possibility that the virus might mutate in a form that could be directly passed on from human to human.

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