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New bird flu outbreaks reported in Vietnam; Thai boy dies
Updated: 2005-12-09 13:46

Bird flu outbreaks were reported in two more provinces in Vietnam on Friday, as the country's agricultural minister called on people to eat healthy poultry to help farmers out of financial difficulties.

Outbreaks in two villages in the northern province of Yen Bai killed or forced the cull of 5,600 chickens and ducks, while 5,000 ducks have died or been culled in central Quang Tri province, according to the Agriculture Ministry's Department of Animal Health Web site.

At least 19 provinces _ more than a quarter of the country _ have reported outbreaks since the latest wave re-emerged in October. Since then, more than 3 million birds have been culled nationwide.

Meanwhile, Agriculture Minister Cao Duc Phat called on people to consume poultry to help ranchers sell their products, according to state media.

"We need to have specific actions to help poultry farmers sell their products and limit their losses," Friday's Pioneer newspaper quoted Phat as saying. "Eating chickens is a way to help farmers to overcome this difficult time."

Phat made the statements at a luncheon Thursday featuring chicken dishes during his tour of southern Dong Nai province, Vietnam's largest poultry producer.

Earlier this week, Tran Cong Xuan, president of the Vietnam Poultry Farmers Association, said that bird flu may force many poultry farmers in the country into bankruptcy, as skittish consumers shy away from their products.

The virus is causing some 700 billion dong (US$44 million) in losses each month due to declining sales, he said, blaming state-controlled media for inaccurately advising people not to consume poultry and poultry products.

The World Health Organization has said poultry and poultry products can be safely consumed in areas experiencing outbreaks provided that these items are properly cooked and handled during preparation.

Some major producers in Vietnam have recently opened outlets to sell poultry products that have gone through quarantine inspection.

Bird flu has killed more than 100 million birds in Asia since it began ravaging poultry farms in late 2003.

The virus has also jumped to humans, killing at least 69 people, the bulk of them in Vietnam. Health experts fear the virus could mutate into a form that's highly contagious among humans, potentially sparking a global pandemic. So far, most human cases have been traced to contact with infected fowl.

Bird flu kills Thai boy - deputy health minister

Bird flu has killed a young Thai boy, Deputy Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakula said on Friday.

"The boy was infected with the H5N1 virus," Anutin told Reuters. He was unable to supply further details immediately.
The death took Thailand's bird flu death toll to 14 since the virus swept through large parts of Asia in late 2003. The H5N1 strain has now killed 70 people in Asia.

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