Authorities in the city of Dawei in southeastern Myanmar’s Tanintharyi region on Wednesday imposed a temporary ban on chicken and egg sales after confirmation that thousands of birds had succumbed to the deadly H5N1 “bird flu” at local farms, a local official said.
Thousands of birds that have died since July 16 were sent to a laboratory in the commercial capital Yangon, which confirmed through testing that they had contracted the H5N1 type of avian influenza.
The highly infectious flu causes severe respiratory disease in poultry that can sometimes be transmitted to humans.
“It is confirmed that we have H5N1 in Dawei,” said Dr. Nyan Lin, director of Tanintharyi’s Veterinary Department. “We are talking with the regional government to work on what we need to do about this.”
More than 1,800 chickens were culled after the virus was detected in June at a farm in Dawei, 370 kilometers (230 miles) southeast of Yangon, according to state-run Global New Light of Myanmar.
The outbreak comes just as the H1N1 seasonal “swine flu” killed two people on Monday in the commercial capital Yangon and another one in remote Matupi township of northwestern Myanmar’s Chin state. There have been more than a dozen other confirmed cases of the virus.
H1N1, which spreads from person to person by inhaling the virus, or by touching surfaces contaminated with the virus, and then touching one’s mouth or nose, became a global pandemic in 2009.
Its flulike symptoms include coughing, fever, sore throat, stuffy or runny nose, body aches, headaches, chills, and fatigue.
Myanmar has seen eight rounds of the H5N1 virus since 2006, and has reported 458 cases of the H1N1 virus since 2009, according to the country’s Livestock Breeding and Veterinary Department and health and sports ministry.
The health ministry held an emergency meeting on Monday with other government agency officials in the administrative capital Naypyidaw to discuss ways to contain the H1N1 virus, Global New Light of Myanmar reported.
The ministry has placed notices in newspapers encouraging people to wear masks and wash their hands frequently as protective measures, especially during the monsoon season from May to October when influenza normally spreads in the country.
Dr. Than Tun Aung, deputy director general of the ministry’s Infectious Diseases Department, told Reuters that the government has no vaccines for H1N1 and that treatments have had little effect on infected patients.
He warned that the current virus outbreak could be worse this year compared with outbreaks in the past.
Reported by Kyaw Lwin Oo for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.