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Myanmar Asked to Check Bird Flu Report

by 5m Editor
23 March 2005, at 12:00am

BURMA - The United Nations food agency has asked Myanmar authorities to check a report of a possible outbreak of Asia's deadly bird flu in the military-ruled country, a U.N. official said on Wednesday.

Myanmar Asked to Check Bird Flu Report - BURMA - The United Nations food agency has asked Myanmar authorities to check a report of a possible outbreak of Asia's deadly bird flu in the military-ruled country, a U.N. official said on Wednesday.

Dr. Tang Zhengping, resident representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said he contacted Myanmar's livestock and veterinary departments after an opposition Web Site reported thousands of chickens had suddenly died in southern Myanmar last week.

"We are waiting for their reply," Tang told Reuters.

"They are a member of FAO and we have good relations with the veterinary department. If they knew of a bird flu outbreak, I'm sure they would report to FAO," he added.

The avian influenza, which has killed 47 people in Asia, has ravaged poultry flocks in neighboring Thailand and other countries in the region for more than a year.

But Myanmar has insisted it is free of bird flu.

The Norway-based Democratic Voice of Burma reported on Sunday that thousands of chickens had suddenly died at Moulmein in Mon State last week and local residents feared it could be bird flu.

"There have been reports that the state authorities have been trying to cover up the news, making the people suspect that these chickens died from avian flu," the Web Site said.

It quoted an unnamed veterinary official in Mon State as saying some birds had died due to extreme heat, but "no massive death in the thousands."

"There have been flu outbreaks in other countries. It still hasn't happened in our country," the official said.

Most of Myanmar's 63 million chickens are raised in rural backyard farms, a traditional way of farming across much of Asia where chickens are allowed to wander freely, mixing with wild birds and other animals and spreading disease.

"If the bird flu came to Myanmar, it would be difficult to control because it could spread among the small farms," Tang said.

He said Myanmar had a good veterinary service, but the FAO was providing training, technical services and lab equipment worth about $350,000 to the southeast Asian nation.

The assistance is part of a broader program to help 7 countries in the region fight trans-boundary diseases such as bird flu, he said.

Source: Reuters - 23rd March 2005

5m Editor