DDC steps up bird flu checks

DDC steps up bird flu checks

DDC steps up bird flu checks
Members of the government task force handling the outbreak of avian flu examine open-billed birds for evidence of the disease at Phut Khao animal area in Bangkok’s Lat Krabang region in 2004. ( Bangkok Post file photo )

The Department of Disease Control ( DDC ) is stepping up surveillance for avian influenza after US health authorities reported a second case of bird flu in humans last week.

Dr Thongchai Keeratihattayakorn, the DDC director-general, said on Sunday the proved human infection of H5N1 strain in the US show that humans may contract the disease from other animals, which indicates the need for close surveillance.

The first event of animal infections in the US was reported on April 1 in Texas and the next event in Michigan on May 22. In both cases the individuals contracted bird virus after being exposed to contaminated cows. Citing the Department of Livestock, Dr Thongchai said there is a reduced risk of avian flu attacks in Thailand as the state does not trade dairy cattle from the US.

In Thailand, the last outbreak of the bird flu was in 2004 since when state agencies including the Department of Livestock and the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation ( DNP ) have been closely monitoring H5N1 infections.

As part of the stepped-up steps, the DDC is now working with the Department of Livestock and the US health authorities in surveillance bird flu infections in animals and humans while health authorities beef up security of incoming foreign customers for suspected flu-like signs. He said the department will also hold talks with the DNP to strengthen public health preparedness.

Dr Apichart Vachirapan, deputy director-general of the DDC, said although Thailand has detected no cases of avian flu for years, outbreaks in animals and humans have been reported in neighbouring countries. He said the public should take precautions which include avoiding touching ill or dead birds, washing their hands after being in contact with animals, and eating well-cooked poultry and eggs. Livestock officials must be notified immediately if there are mass deaths among birds and poultry, he added.