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Bird Flu Continues to Spread in Asia



The recent surge of infections of the deadly H5N1 virus, which re-emrged in Asia in late 2003, has alarmed health officials, the news agency said today.

An Indonesian hospital was beleaguered with patients suffering influenza symptions while the disease has been reportedly spreading in Vietnam and nearby Thailand reported its first case in poultry in six months.

Meanwhile farm ministry officials in Japan said there was no evidence of the disease spreading there following confirmation this weekend of a bird flu outbreak at a poultry farm in the southwest where 3,800 chickens died.

Four Indonesians have already died this year after a six-week respite in cases, raising the number of human deaths from bird flu in the country to 61, the highest in the world.

At Jakarta's Persahabatan hospital, where doctors were treating nine people with bird flu symptoms, including a 5-year-old girl in intensive care, its isolation wards were overwhelmed. Indonesia planned to prohibit people from keeping backyard fowl in three high-risk provinces.

In Vietnam, where bird flu has killed 42 of the 93 people infected since 2003, the virus appeared to be spreading fast among fowl in the country's southern Mekong Delta, threatening to engulf the major rice-growing region.

A senior Thai agriculture official said today that 1,900 ducks had been culled in the northern province of Phitsanulok after some of the birds had tested positive for H5N1. The case is Thailand's first in birds since last July. The last human death, the country's 17th, occurred in August.

China and Egypt, where 10 people have already died from the disease, have reported new human cases in recent weeks and Nigeria last week culled around 20,000 chickens in the latest outbreak among poultry.

The World Health Organization says avian influenza has infected 265 people and killed 159 of them in 10 countries since 2003, 79 of them last year alone, and has urged vigilance as the disease continues to circulate among birds.

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