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Bird flu cases multiply around Pakistani capital

By Super

Islamabad, Apr 24 : Pakistan reported mounting cases of the deadly H5NI bird flu virus today after discovering more infected farms close to Islamabad.

''Now, we have total nine poultry farms (near Islamabad) where H5N1 virus has been confirmed,'' Mohammad Afzal, the ministry's livestock commissioner, told Reuters.

He said more than 40,000 chickens had been culled after new outbreaks were discovered in the past week at eight farms located in Tarlai and Sihala, two areas near Islamabad where poultry farms are concentrated.

Pakistan's first reported cases were found in February at two farms in North West Frontier Province, but a third was discovered close to the capital earlier this month.

None of the workers at the farms have contracted the disease.

''We have tested samples of blood and nasal and throat swabs of 33 workers but their tests were negative,'' Afzal said.

Shamsul Hasan, director at the state-run Poultry Development Centre, said scientists had detected a mild strain of bird flu, H5, in flocks at five another farms near Islamabad.

''We have confirmed H5 strain and for N1, tests are being carried out in another laboratory,'' Hasan said.

H5 and other low-pathogenic forms of bird flu cause mild sympthoms such as ruffled feathers and a drop in egg production.

The H5N1 strain has spread across Asia and into parts of the Middle East, Africa and Europe. Since 2003, 110 people have died from bird flu, but Pakistan has not reported any cases in people.

Scientists are concerned the virus could mutate into a form that can pass easily between people and precipitate a pandemic some fear might kill millions.


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