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Asia faces grave situation of bird flu outbreak
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Asia is facing the grave situation of fighting against the spread of bird flu outbreak, with the reports of more human contraction of the disease in recent days.


Vietnam's Health Ministry confirmed that a 40-year-old man from northern Hai Duong province has died of bird flu on Wednesday, the country's 49th victim of the fatal disease. Some chickens have died around his house over the past few weeks, local media said.


Vietnam also reported that over 600 ducks raised by a household in the central Quang Ngai province died from Feb. 11 to 13.


Vietnam has confirmed a total of 103 human cases of bird flu infections, including 49 fatalities, since the disease started to hit the country in December 2003, leading to killing and forced culling of dozens of millions of fowls in the country.


Meanwhile, the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department of Hong Kong said Thursday that a gray heron found in Lok Ma Chau was confirmed to be H5N1 positive.


The bird carcass was found and collected on Feb. 8 near San SamRoad, Lok Ma Chau in the New Territories.


This is the third bird flu case to hit the city this year. A black-crowned heron at Hong Kong's Ocean Park, a major Hong Kong tourist attraction, was found to have been infected with the virus on Feb. 1, closing the aviary for three weeks. A great Egret also tested positive for the killer strain last month.


Hong Kong was the scene of the world's first reported major bird flu outbreak among humans in 1997, when six people died.


Over the past two months, there were also reported bird flu outbreaks in such Asian countries as Indonesia, Thailand, Bangladesh, Laos, Pakistan, India, Myanmar and Nepal.


A 15-year-old Indonesian girl from West Jakarta has been infected by avian influenza, bringing the total cases to 127 with 103 of them fatal, Indonesian health ministry said Tuesday.


Experts have said that improper initial medical treatment and poor hygiene of the traditional poultry market were blamed for the highest fatality rate of bird flu in Indonesia, the world's fourth most populous country with a population of over 240 million.


A fresh outbreak of bird flu among fowls has struck Laos' southern Luang Namtha province, Lao newspaper on Tuesday quoted a local agriculture official as saying.


Some 600 poultry in Nam Ma village, Long district, died last week, said Bounkhouang Khambounheuang, head of the Department of Livestock and Fisheries under the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, noting that their specimens have been tested positive tobird flu virus strain H5N1.


The bird flu which is spreading fast in Bangladesh recently has so far affected 40 out of the total 64 districts of the country.


The avian influenza virus was first detected in a poultry farm in Savar, about 30 km northwest of Dhaka, in March 2007. The situation has been getting worse since last month as the bird flu virus is spreading fast across the country.


According to latest statistics, 560,000 poultry birds of 228 poultry farms in 40 districts have been culled across Bangladesh since the detection of the bird flu in the country in March last year.


Twenty-six districts of Thailand's northeastern province of Khon Kaen were on high alert of deadly bird flu after local fowl died mysteriously last week, provincial Governor Panchai Bawornrattanapran said on Sunday.


Thailand is among the countries hardest hit by the deadly H5N1 virus, having recorded 24 human cases, including 16 fatalities, since the outbreak in 2004.


In Myanmar, a seven-year-old girl was reported as the country's first human-infected bird flu case on Dec. 15.


Bird flu H5N1 virus has also been detected in a poultry farm in southern Pakistan's port city of Karachi. At least 5,000 chickens have been killed and buried in view of the outbreak.


India has culled about 2.5 million birds in West Bengal since the outbreak was confirmed in the middle of January. The affected districts increased to 13 in the state.


The World Health Organization (WHO) has described the West Bengal situation as "serious".


The H5N1 virus has afflicted more than 60 countries since it began ravaging Asian poultry stocks in 2003, forcing the slaughter of hundreds of millions of birds worldwide.


Experts fear bird flu may mutate into a form that spreads easily among humans, potentially sparking a pandemic. So far, most human cases have been linked to contact with infected birds.


WHO experts said that at least 226 people have died worldwide from the virus since 2003. That number does not include the latest death in Vietnam. Experts said a bird flu pandemic among humans would kill millions worldwide.


(Xinhua News Agency February 15, 2008)


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