Myanmar finds first bird flu case, culls chickens

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BANGKOK, Mar 13 (Reuters) Myanmar has found the H5N1 bird flu virus in chickens in what is believed to be the secretive country's first case of the deadly disease, but there was no sign of human infection, a UN official said today.

''The information is there is no human case so far,'' said the UN official in Yangon, who declined to be named.

Myanmar health officials ordered surveillance to be stepped up after the outbreak in the central Mandalay region was reported to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the OIE, the Paris-based international animal health body, today.

The case emerged on March 8 after 112 chickens died on a farm in Aung Myae Thar Zan township near the city of Mandalay, about 430 miles (700 km) north of Yangon.

Officials destroyed a flock of 780 birds and sent samples for testing at government laboratories in Mandalay and Yangon.

''They have carried out some tests and they believe that they have identified H5N1,'' said Laurence Gleeson, an FAO official in Bangkok.

Dr Tang Zhengping, the FAO representative in Yangon, said samples had been sent to laboratories in Australia and Thailand to confirm the findings.

He did not know if foreign experts would be allowed to visit the site, but he said the military government had been cooperative on bird flu issues.

Other foreign aid and humanitarian groups say their ability to operate in the former Burma has been curtailed since the purge of Prime Minister Khin Nyunt in October 2004.

''We have close cooperation. I am satisfied,'' Zhengping said.

LACK OF RESOURCES The military-ruled country is seen by some international health experts as a potential black hole in the global fight against the disease, which has killed 97 people worldwide.

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