Bird flu strikes again in Thailand

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The death of a 59-year-old farmer in northeastern Thailand last month has taken the countries death toll from bird-flu to 17 since late 2003 and is the third death this year.

Thailand's top health officials have confirmed that the man tested positive for the deadly H5N1 virus; he was from Nong Bua Lam Phu province, 400 kilometres north-east of Bangkok.

It is suspected the farmer, who had 40 birds, bred for cockfighting, had fed medicine to sick birds with his own hands and handled dead birds.

This latest bird flu fatality follows the death in early August of a 27-year-old farmer in the central province of Uthai Thani who had also handled a dead chicken with his bare hands.

Officials say there have been no recent reports of a bird-flu outbreak among livestock in the area and an investigation is to be launched to find out how the victim contracted the disease.

Almost all cases of birdflu in humans have been contracted through close contact with infected poultry.

Since 2003 Thailand has been subjected to four major outbreaks of avian influenza among its livestock and of the confirmed 25 human cases, 17 have died.

In order to control the spread of the virus, 900,000 volunteers have been recruited across the country to spray disinfectant around poultry farms on a regular basis and check for signs of illness among residents.

Thailand's military, which is now in control of the country has asked public health officials to report any information on the deadly virus.

Thailand's poultry industry, which was once the world's biggest, was badly hit by import bans on raw Thai chicken following the 2004 outbreak and now only exports cooked chicken.

Thailand has stockpiled 1.5 million capsules of the anti-viral drug oseltamvir, a generic version of the drug Tamiflu, which the kingdom began producing this year.

Worldwide, 250 people have been infected since late 2003 in 10 countries in Asia and Africa, and 147 have died.

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