EU health chief holds negotiation with Thai officials on bird flu

The European Union's health commissioner praised Thailand's efforts to combat bird flu during his second stop on a four-nation Southeast Asia tour, Thai officials said Wednesday.

Markos Kyprianou's main objective on the tour is discussing the H5N1 bird flu strain, which recently spread to Europe and made a resurgence in Asia, where it has devastated poultry flocks and killed more then five dozen people since late 2003.

Kyprianou's tour takes him to the four nations with confirmed fatalities: Vietnam, which he visited first, then Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia, the AP reports.

Thai Public Health Minister Phinij Jarusombat and Agriculture Minister Sudarat Keyuraphan both met with him on Wednesday, with bird flu dominating the agenda.

While meeting with Sudarat he praised Thailand for taking a leading role in the region's efforts against the deadly virus, the government-rule Thai News Agency reported.

Kyprianou also expressed support for Thailand's ban on vaccinating poultry against bird flu, the agency reported.

The EU health commissioner could not immediately be reached for comment on the report.

Thai Vice Agriculture Minister Charal Trinwuthipong said surveillance and culling had proved satisfactory in containing the problem.

The H5N1 bird flu virus has killed at least 64 people in Asia since 2003, with most of the deaths linked to direct contact with infected birds. Vietnam has been hit hardest, with more than 42 deaths reported. Thailand has had 13 fatalities, Indonesia five and Cambodia four. A.M.