Image: Thai farm worker
A Thai farm worker carries dead chickens to be destroyed at a farm in Ayutthaya province, central Thailand, on July 6.
updated 7/7/2004 12:24:17 PM ET 2004-07-07T16:24:17

China and Thailand reported new outbreaks of bird flu, the highly contagious disease that health experts fear could sicken humans.

Thailand’s Deputy Africulture Minister Newin Chidchob on Wednesday said fresh outbreaks of bird flu were confirmed in two central provinces where thousands of chickens died recently.

“The result of lab tests in Ayuthaya and Prathumthani provinces have confirmed the existence of bird flu H5N1 virus,” Newin Chidchob said.

The outbreak in China was the first report of the avian illness since China declared it had “stamped out” the disease nearly four months ago. Tests at a farm in the southeastern province of Anhui have confirmed chickens died of bird flu, the government said on state-run television.

Bird flu has also been confirmed on farms in Vietnam in recent days.

Although the newest cases have affected only poultry, health experts have said they fear bird flu might mutate and spread from person to person.

At its height earlier this year, the disease ravaged flocks throughout Asia. It also spread to from birds to humans in Vietnam and Thailand, killing 24 people. About 100 million chickens across the region were slaughtered to halt its spread.

China declared it had defeated the disease in March after killing 9 million chickens and other poultry. But it warned that the disease might come back with warmer weather.

Virus' return 'not surprising'
“It’s not surprising that it has come back,” said Roy Wadia of the World Health Organization in Beijing. “It stays in the environment a long time.”

The farm, in the city of Chaohu near a lake of the same name, has been quarantined, China Central Television said.

Authorities killed all the poultry within two miles of the affected farm and vaccinated poultry within three miles, the report said.

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It said the outbreak was under control.

“I think the experience that China had several months ago has prepared it well,” Wadia said.

In Hong Kong, which maintains border controls with mainland China, the government said it was suspending live bird and poultry imports from Anhui province.

Wadia said the U.N. agency was monitoring China’s outbreak as well as other cases in Asia.

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