Eighth bird flu death in Thailand; China claims initial success
Thailand has been forced to put off plans to declare itself bird-flu free amid fears that the virus had emerged in 11 provinces.
"We are monitoring some possible resurgence, as we have heard reports of chickens dying," Thailand's Deputy Agriculture Minister Newin Chidchob said. "We have postponed to April but we cannot set a date. We still have to monitor the situation" (AFP/Yahoo! News, March 16).
China, on the other hand, has said it is free of the disease, having culled 9 million birds in seven weeks, and having detected no new infections in 30 days (BBC Online, March 16).
Agriculture Ministry spokesman Jia Youling said that although the disease "started relatively late" in China, it was wiped out with relative speed.
"I believe that success is due to the effective measures adopted by the Chinese government," he said (AFP/Yahoo! News).
He warned, however, that the disease could return with warm weather (BBC Online).
"The possibility of bird flu coming again is great and no efforts should be spared in its prevention and control," he said.
Only the World Organization for Animal Health can officially declare a country free of bird flu, after a 21-day surveillance period with no new outbreaks. According to the organization, China is still on the official list of 10 Asian countries affected by bird flu.
"Beijing has not asked us to declare China to be free of the virus," said Yoshiyuki Okutani, the deputy chief of the organization's Tokyo office. "(We are) not considering China to be free of the virus (AFP/Yahoo! News).
Japan, meanwhile, is cracking down on bird flu, announcing today new measures to deal with the disease, including $3.6 million in financial aid and plans to punish those who try to cover up incidents of outbreaks.
The initiative calls for the central government to provide about $3.6 million in special tax grants to local governments affected by the virus to buy protective gear and disinfectant, as well as compensation for poultry farmers who have suffered losses from the disease.
Under the measures, a bill would be sent to Parliament calling for increased punishment for those who fail to report bird flu cases (AFP/News24.com, March 16).