Thailand Bird Flu death toll reached 13

A 48-year-old man who died after eating his neighbor's sick chickens had bird flu, making him the 13th person confirmed to have died from the disease in Thailand, the prime minister said Thursday.

Initially, authorities said the man, who died Wednesday, had tested negative for the virus. But on Thursday, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said new lab results confirmed the bird flu diagnosis.

The man, Bang-on Benphat, was hospitalized with pneumonia-like symptoms on Sunday, shortly after he cooked and ate his neighbor's dead chickens. Officials said the birds had died of abnormal causes but were not tested for bird flu.

But other chickens in the village in the Phanom Thuan district of Kanchanaburi province tested positive for bird flu, said Dr. Thawat Suntrajarn, director-general of the Department of Communicable Disease Control.

The man's 7-year-old son, who also had contact with the chickens, has been hospitalized in Bangkok with a fever and lung infection and is also suspected of having bird flu, Thawat said. "The people in this area should have known better," he said. "They took sickly chickens and killed and ate them. This is extremely dangerous."

Meanwhile, three more districts in Kamphangphet province in central Thailand have confirmed bird flu in chickens, The Nation newspaper said Thursday. Hundreds of farmers were forced to cull their flocks, it said.

The country has also begun to stockpile the antiviral Tamiflu, the main drug used to treat bird flu in humans. It has acquired 66,000 doses so far and is also starting clinical trials of its own generic version of the drug, reports the AP. I.L.

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