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UN Agency Says Bird Flu Still Threatening Asia

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned Friday that even with some preventive measures underway, the spread of the "bird flu" virus is still not under control in several Asian countries.


Some 80 million chickens have so far been culled to fight the epidemic, but with newly reported outbreaks in Cambodia, China, Indonesia and Laos, continued vigilance will be needed, a UN spokesman told a press briefing in New York.


The agency hailed in a press release improvements in collaboration among affected States. "Countries realize that cooperation and transparency are absolutely essential for the fight against bird flu," it said.


While China, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam have set up information and response structures, the situation remains very difficult in some countries, especially the poorer ones which lack resources such as qualified veterinary staff, diagnostic tools and transport, it added.


The disease has spread to humans in Vietnam, which has reported19 confirmed cases, 14 of them fatal, and Thailand with 6 cases, 5of them fatal, according to the agency.


Experts from more than 20 countries will gather for a UN-backed meeting from Feb. 26 to 28 in Bangkok, Thailand, to discuss the economic impact of the avian flu crisis, strategies to control it, including emergency measures, and how to restore poultry industries and improve regional cooperation.


The "bird flu," formally known as Avian Influenza, has been recognized as a highly lethal generalized viral disease of poultry since 1901. In 1955, a specific type of influenza virus was identified as the causal agent of what was then called fowl plague.


(Xinhua News Agency February 15, 2004)


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