The strain of bird flu that killed 24 people in Southeast Asia early this year has erupted again in Thailand and China, but authorities in both countries said on Wednesday the outbreaks were under control.
Thailand said it had confirmed outbreaks of the H5N1 strain of bird flu, which first emerged in Hong Kong in 1997, at two farms near towns north of Bangkok.
China said the virus had struck a farm in central Anhui province, 180 miles west of Shanghai.
Both governments were quick to add that the new outbreaks were being dealt with decisively and a repeat of the epidemic that swept across much of Asia earlier this year was unlikely.
That outbreak killed 16 people in Vietnam and eight in Thailand. About 100 million fowl died or were culled, more than 40 million of them in Thailand, which had been the world’s fourth-largest chicken exporter.
“The outbreak has come under control,” in Anhui, the semi-official China News Service said of the latest scare on its Web site at [url=http://www.chinanews.com.cn]http://www.chinanews.com.cn[/url]
Nevertheless, a provincial official said the family that owned the infected farm and those in close contact with them had been isolated and were under observation.
Officials ordered the culling of all poultry within a 2-mile radius of the farm. Poultry within a 3-mile radius was being vaccinated.
“Next we will strengthen quarantining of local agricultural product markets to prevent the spread of bird flu to human beings,” the provincial official said.
In southern Guangdong, the provincial Administration for Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine urged farms supplying poultry to neighboring Hong Kong and Macau to guard against their stocks coming in contact with wild birds, the official Xinhua news agency said.
In Thailand, senior officials told Reuters the outbreaks appeared to be confined to the two farms involved near the towns of Ayutthaya and Phathum Thani and an industry body said it considered the outbreaks “a small issue.”
Nevertheless, senior Agriculture Ministry officials who said earlier there was no need to slaughter fowl on nearby farms were overruled at an emergency meeting of senior officials from three ministries.
“We will strictly follow OIE’s guidelines by culling all chickens within a one-km radius of the two farms,” Deputy Prime Minister Chaturon Chaisang said afterwards, referring to the Paris-based World Organization for Animal Health.
“The government’s policy is to ensure the public’s safety. We will follow international standards strictly in solving the problem, so the country’s credibility will not be damaged,” he told reporters.
Yukol Limlaemthong, head of the Agriculture Ministry’s Livestock Department, said the cause of the new outbreaks was under investigation.
But, he added; “The situation has been brought under control because no chickens in nearby farms have died.”
China blamed its new outbreak on migratory birds, which were thought to have spread the disease through Asia early this year as they headed south to warmer climes during the winter.
So far in the new outbreak, 8,000 chickens had been slaughtered at the infected farm near Ayutthya and more than 700 on the farm near Pathum Thani, the Thai officials said.
It was unclear how many birds in Anhui died of the disease, or how many had been culled and vaccinated.
Thailand has never declared its epidemic over.
China said in March it had stamped out the disease, but said bird flu could spread again as the weather warmed up and water fowl migrated.
The World Health Organization expressed caution at the time, saying it believed no Asian country had yet contained the virus. (Additional reporting by John Ruwitch and Cher Gao in Beijing and Trirat Puttajanyawong in Bangkok)
Revision date: July 4, 2011
Last revised: by Janet A. Staessen, MD, PhD