- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 27, 2004

BEIJING — China confirmed yesterday that it found bird flu in dead ducks on a southern farm and was tracking “suspect” cases in two other provinces. Thailand said a boy became the eighth victim of the disease in its deadliest outbreak since 1997.

Laos joined China yesterday to take the total number of countries hit by the flu to 10 as the virus sweeping Asia prompted the slaughter of tens of millions of birds.

In China, the official Xinhua news agency’s dispatch was the first government confirmation that avian influenza had surfaced there.

Authorities immediately isolated the area around the farm in the Guangxi region of southern China adjacent to Vietnam, where six persons had died from the disease.

Some 14,000 birds within a two-mile radius of the farm in Dingdang were slaughtered, and all poultry for three miles around it were quarantined, Xinhua said.

The farm is about 60 miles from Vietnam.

“Local governments have made necessary measures of slaughter or quarantine to prevent a spread,” Xinhua said. “No people have been found infected so far and the epidemic has been in control.”

Roy Wadia, a spokesman for the World Health Organization (WHO) in Beijing, said China’s Health Ministry had informed the U.N. agency of the bird flu cases.

“There are no cases known in people so far,” he said.

WHO believes the virus can be transmitted by migratory waterfowl.

Xinhua also said reports of bird deaths in a “chicken-raising household” in central Hubei province and a “duck-raising household” in nearby Hunan province had been diagnosed as “suspect” bird flu. It emphasized that those diagnoses were preliminary.

China’s aggressive campaign to combat the disease starkly contrasts with the government’s initially secretive response last year to the SARS outbreak. Severe acute respiratory syndrome killed 349 persons on the mainland before retreating in June.

Also yesterday, other Chinese quarantine officials said they would impose poultry bans on Pakistan and Indonesia, bringing to eight the number of countries whose bird products have been banned from the region’s largest economy.

China stopped such shipments from Cambodia, Thailand, Japan, South Korea and Vietnam and the Republic of China (Taiwan) in an effort to prevent the disease from spreading to its poultry.

In Thailand, the Public Health Ministry confirmed that a 6-year-old boy died from the disease yesterday, becoming the country’s second fatality and the region’s eighth. Thai officials awaited lab results on five other deaths believed linked to the virus, meaning the toll could reach 13.

Thailand’s first death, announced Monday, also was a 6-year-old boy who had carried a dying chicken to a butcher.

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