Malaysia deals with bird flu
Malaysia deals with "isolated" case of bird flu in the midst of its mega tourism "Visit Malaysia" campaign.
By ETN on 17 June 2007 in News
The timing for the “isolated” bird flu case couldn’t have come at worse time. The country’s banner year, Visit Malaysia 2007, is in full-swing.
Malaysian tourism officials must be asking if the announcement of an isolated H5N1 bird flu outbreak detected in the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur should not have been postponed, or chosen another time and place.
Last week, officials from the United Nations World Tourism Organization had praised Malaysian tourism for its success in selling its hugely successful "Truly Asia” tag to the world and for successfully hosting the three-day conference, which brought world tourism leaders to Kuala Lumpur.
On the last day of the conference (last week Wednesday), the country's Ministry of Agriculture announced a new outbreak, followed by the prime minister reminding authorities should “identify and take quick measures” to prevent it from spreading.
The untimely incident and announcement was made by the authorities following confirmation a new outbreak of the H5N1 bird flu strain was detected among dead poultry in three villages on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur.
"The Veterinary Research Institute confirmed two of the 67 chickens which died tested positive of the H5N1 strain," said Ministry Secretary-General Dr Zulkifli Idris on Wednesday. "It is an isolated case and the public should not worry."
Authorities confirmed some 1,359 have been culled by officials garbed in white protective suits as of Wednesday night. "A few more thousand chickens, pets and geese around a one-kilometer area of the outbreak are still to be destroyed."
Authorities are still trying to track the source of the outbreak, added Isa.
There have been no reports of human deaths to suggest a possible outbreak of human flu. "The virus has not spread to humans," declared Health Minister Chua Soi Lek. "We were able to contain the outbreak from infecting people."
The health ministry has also been put on high alert, with health centers and clinics within 300 meter range of the affected area on stand-by to treat humans showing symptoms of the avian flu.
In a late news announcement on Sunday, the health ministry said ten of the eleven who were warded for observation by Saturday have tested negative for the H5N1 virus. "None of them tested positive for bird flu." The eleventh is still under observation.
Villagers in the affected area are relived the situation is under control and have moved on with their daily lives, while health and veterinary officials will continue monitoring the situation. "The villagers are not afraid to eat chicken again."
Malaysia first announced outbreak of the H5N1 strain of bird flu virus in free-range chickens also on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur in February 2006, followed by culling of thousands of birds.
Malaysia then imposed tight security at its border checkpoints, preventing smuggling of poultry into the country.
There were five other outbreaks elsewhere in the country, but Malaysia declared itself free of the deadly virus last June.
Fresh outbreaks of the strain around the region, including a total of 79 human deaths in Indonesia and 17 in Thailand, the county's nearest neighbors, has brought back high alert for a possible outbreak of bird flu in the region.
Meanwhile, on Friday, agricultural authorities in Hong Kong reported a dead magpie has tested positive for the H5N1 bird flu virus. Hong Kong reported the first bird flu outbreak among humans in 1997 in the region, including the death of six people who were infected.
It was the 17th death of wild birds infected with the virus reported in Hong Kong this year.
According to the World Health Organization, the deadly H5N1 bird flu strain has killed a total of 200 people worldwide and ravaged millions of poultry flocks since it was first detected in 2003.
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