Another outbreak of bird flu in Thailand has authorities on high alert

A dead chicken on a backyard farm in northern Thailand has signalled another outbreak of bird flu and comes six months after the country declared itself free of the disease.

According to Thailand's Ministry of Agriculture, the H5N1 virus was found in the bird on a native-chicken farm in the northern province of Sukhothai and has resulted in the culling of hundreds more chickens in the area.

To date there are no reports of people falling sick from the bird flu, but officials say the area will be closely monitored for the next month and they say the case has been reported to the World Animal Health Organisation.

All 17 native chickens at the farm had been culled to prevent the disease spreading - five chickens at the farm died last week and health officials declared the area near the infected farm a bird flu outbreak zone in order to facilitate disease control operations.

This is the third outbreak of bird flu case this year in Thailand - the other two were in Nakhon Sawan's Chumsaeng district and Phichit's Sak Lek sub-district in January.

Thailand, the world's fourth-largest exporter of poultry, has slaughtered millions of birds to halt the spread of bird flu and frozen poultry exports are expected to be suspended and surveillance stepped up as for bird flu is more active in the cold season.

Since the country's first outbreak in January, 2004 more than 60 million have died or were culled, 25 people have been infected by the virus and 17 have died.

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