Originally created 08/19/04

Malaysia reports bird flu in chickens at village near Thailand



KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia -- Malaysia on Wednesday announced it has detected bird flu in a chicken-rearing village near its northern border with Thailand.

Singapore, Malaysia's neighbor to the south and its biggest poultry export market, immediately suspended imports of all Malaysian poultry and poultry products.

Malaysian authorities assured the public that the outbreak at Pasir Pekan, about 310 miles northeast of Kuala Lumpur, was an isolated case.

Hawari Hussein, director general of the Malaysian Veterinary Services Department, said tests on chickens were positive for the H5 strain of avian flu, and further tests were being conducted to determine whether it was the lethal H5N1 variant.

"We know it is H5, but we're hoping it won't be H5N1," Hawari told The Associated Press.

Authorities would cull 103 chickens, 62 pet birds and eight ducks in the village, he said.

The H5N1 strain led to the deaths earlier this year of 24 people in Vietnam and Thailand. About 100 million chickens perished through infections or government-ordered slaughter as the disease spread through 10 Asian countries.

Malaysia escaped that outbreak, but bird flu recently re-emerged in southern Vietnam.

Malaysian authorities have imposed a six-mile quarantine on Pasir Pekan and restricted the movement of poultry and birds in Kelantan state, where the village is located.

"These control measures are taken because the village is near the border area" with Thailand, the veterinary department said, adding that other areas in Malaysia were not affected.

"This location is in the north, far from commercial chicken farms," the statement said. "Therefore, chickens sold in our market are safe, and consumers should not worry."

Ngiam Tong Tau, chief executive of Singapore's Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority, said no signs of the virus were detected in live birds that were imported Wednesday from Malaysia.

Singapore imports around 120,000 live chickens and 20,000 ducks from Malaysia every day, Ngiam said. Two million eggs - two-thirds of Singapore's supply - are also brought in daily.

Japan earlier this month suspended poultry imports from Malaysia after preliminary tests showed a suspected form of avian flu at a single duck farm in northwestern Perak state. Malaysia said no variant of the disease turned up in subsequent tests.