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Malaysia reports fresh cases of bird flu

Written by: Staff
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KUALA LUMPUR, Mar 16 (Reuters) Malaysia reported two new cases of the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu today in a wild bird and among dead chickens in the central state of Perak.

No human cases have so far been reported in Malaysia, which last month reported its first case of bird flu since November 2004, giving the H5N1 virus as the cause of death of 40 chickens in Selangor state.

Yesterday, a senior veterinary official, quoting a statement prepared by the agriculture ministry, told Reuters bird culling had begun within a 1-km radius around both spots where the cases were detected.

''All efforts are being taken to control the disease from spreading and we believe the action taken will control the disease,'' the official quoted Agriculture Minister Muhyiddin Yassin as saying.

Bird flu has killed about 100 people worldwide since 2003, spreading from Asia to West Asia and reaching Europe and Africa along bird migration routes.

Many scientists fear the virus could mutate into a form that easily passes among people, triggering a pandemic.

In Malaysia, the dead wild bird was found in a nature reserve about 100 km from a village where nine chicken deaths were reported on March 11, the official told Reuters. Samples taken from the dead chickens tested positive for H5N1, he added.

Mustapa Abdul Jalil, acting chief of veterinary services, said the authorities had starting killing suspect birds within a one-km radius of the two sites, besides disinfecting the locations, and restricting the movement of poultry in the area.

Health officials had begun making checks on people living within 10 km of each site, the statement added.

Fifteen people tested negative for H5N1 in last month's outbreak, when authorities killed more than 3,400 birds to contain the disease, and tightened border checks to keep out the virus after fears grew it might have been carried in by fighting cockerels illegally smuggled into Malaysia.

REUTERS SY BST1730

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