First bird flu case reported in Persian Gulf region

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KUWAIT CITY (AP) — A flamingo found on a Kuwaiti beach had the strain of bird flu that has devastated poultry stocks and killed more than 60 people in Asia — the first known case of the deadly bird flu in the Arab world.
Also Friday, Thailand reported an 18-month-old boy was suffering from bird flu, and China reported two new outbreaks in poultry.

Mohammed al-Mihana of Kuwait’s Public Authority for Agriculture and Fisheries said tests showed the flamingo had the deadly H5N1 flu strain, while a second bird — an imported falcon — had the milder H5N2 variant.

Al-Mihana said the imported bird, which had been quarantined at the airport, was a falcon, not a peacock as reported Thursday. Both the flamingo and falcon were destroyed.

Officials in this small oil-rich Persian Gulf state said there was no indication bird flu had spread to humans and they saw no need to slaughter domestic bird stocks. Poultry and eggs from local farms were free of the disease, they said.

Al-Mihana said teams would continue to fumigate farms and bird markets and are checking places where birds stop on their migration from Asia to Africa.

There have been worries about outbreaks of bird flu in the Middle East because the region sits on important migratory routes. Migratory birds earlier spread the virus to Russia, Turkey and Romania.

The H5N1 strain has generated fears of a pandemic should it mutate into a form transmissible among humans. So far, humans have caught the virus only from infected birds.

The ailing Thai toddler was recovering in a hospital. His family’s house in a Bangkok suburb was also home to three fighting cocks and a chicken, Dr. Thawat Suntarajarn said. All the birds died soon after the toddler was hospitalized, Thawat said.

Twenty-one people in Thailand have caught bird flu, and 13 have died.

China on Friday reported additional outbreaks — the seventh and eighth in the country. No human cases have been reported in China.

One of the new Chinese outbreaks was in Liaoning province northeast of Beijing. It occurred Sunday and killed 300 chickens, the Chinese Agriculture Ministry said in a report on the website of the Paris-based International Organization for Animal Health. Some 2.5 million birds were reported destroyed.

The other bird flu outbreak occurred Nov. 2 in Jingshan County in Hubei province, killing 2,500 poultry and prompting officials to destroy more than 31,000 birds, China’s official Xinhua News Agency said.

Vietnam — which has suffered two-thirds of Asia’s human deaths from the virus — ordered its military and police to help fight the disease.

Also, North Korea issued a bird flu alert Thursday, exhorting people to unite against a potential outbreak, making chicken farms off-limits to outsiders and requiring feed transport vehicles to be disinfected.

H5N1 first appeared in Hong Kong in 1997 but was curbed when authorities destroyed all poultry in the territory. It re-emerged in December 2003 and has recently spread from Asia to Europe.


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