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Bird flu claims 20th Asian victim
Updated: 2004-02-15 13:42

Bird flu has claimed its 20th fatality in Asia with the death of a 13-year-old boy in Thailand.

His death comes as zoos across the region are reeling, with the diseasing hitting some exotic species after wiping out millions of chickens and ducks.

The boy died late Saturday at a hospital in the country's northeast, where he'd been in intensive care after testing positive for the avian flu virus on Thursday, said Charal Trinvuthipong, director-general of the Public Health Ministry's Department of Communicable Disease Control.

The disease is now confirmed in six human deaths in Thailand and 14 in Viet Nam.

The Thai boy, whose identity hasn't been released, became sick 10 days after his family's chickens started dying mysteriously.

"The boy's condition got slightly better before it worsened rapidly," and he then died, Charal said, adding that the disease had harmed the victim's kidneys.

A 1-year-old girl from Thailand's northeast became the latest person suspected of having the disease Saturday, a doctor said.

Indian authorities said they plan to hold an emergency meeting of health and agricultural officials from seven South Asian nations on Monday in New Delhi to draft a strategy to prevent the spread of bird flu in the highly populous region.

After ravaging poultry flocks, the disease is now hitting other species -- especially in zoos.

A leopard in a central Thailand zoo has died of bird flu, though tests are still being done to determine whether it had the same strain of the virus that has jumped to humans or a milder one, officials said. The animal may have caught the disease from eating raw meat from infected chickens.

The World Health Organization said if confirmed it could be the first known case of the disease found in a member of the cat family.

Fears that wild roosters and hens scampering around a zoo in the country's north may be infected with bird flu has prompted authorities to isolate a pair of endangered giant pandas, officials said.

About 200 cranes that mysteriously died at a bird park a little north of the Thai capital, Bangkok, are being tested for bird flu.

At a zoo in neighboring Cambodia, a gray heron that died last month has tested positive for the avian flu, the country's third confirmed case of the virus. The sudden unexplained deaths of another 56 wild birds and some 400 parakeets have prompted the zoo to close its bird section.

Officials ordered a pet bird farm in Taiwan's southern Tainan County to kill about 300 birds, including Swinhoe's pheasants -- a once-endangered indigenous bird with a short white crest and a blue head -- after tests showed some of them were infected with a less dangerous strain of bird flu that has not jumped to humans.

Ten governments in the region have been dealing with strains of bird flu since South Korean officials reported an outbreak in December. Some Asian countries, as well as the United States, are being hit with the milder strain not thought to pose a danger to people.

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