Malaysia began house-to-house inspection for bird flu sick people

Malaysia began culling birds and launched house-to-house inspections Tuesday for sick people in an area where 40 chickens died from the H5N1 bird flu virus in the first reported case of the disease in more than a year. Health Minister Chua Soi Lek told reporters that his ministry has launched active surveillance in Gombak district in central Malaysia where bird flu was detected last week in four hamlets.

The surveillance would cover a 300-meter (1,000-foot) radius from every chicken pen where the infected birds were found, Chua said, adding that the Veterinary Services Department had begun to cull fowls there. The affected villages, Pasir Wardieburn, Taman Danau Kota, Pekan Danau Kota and Kampung Belakang JPJ, are just outside Kuala Lumpur , Malaysia 's largest city.

Chua said the Kuala Lumpur Health Department and City Hall would carry out close surveillance and house-to-house inspections to see if any people had fallen sick. No details were available on the number of households or villagers in the affected areas.

Chua said there has been no human infection reported and urged the public not to listen to rumors. He promised that the government would be "transparent and open" in disclosing information. He did not say why the government disclosed only late Monday the deaths of the chickens last week in Gombak. It was disclosed in a statement by the agriculture minister in response to a Singapore media report.

Meanwhile, Housing and Local Government Minister Ong Ka Ting said all government agencies had been placed on alert to tackle the latest bird flu cases. He said local authorities had been asked to fully cooperate with the leading agencies such as the Veterinary Services Department and Health Department.

Malaysia had declared itself free of bird flu in January 2005, more than six weeks after its last infection was detected in villages in the northeastern Kelantan state. The disease was discovered there in August 2004 in fighting cocks smuggled from neighboring Thailand . No humans were infected. The H5N1 virus has devastated poultry stocks and killed at least 92 people, mostly in Asia , since 2003, according to the World Health Organization. Most human cases of the disease have been linked to contact with infected birds. But scientists fear the virus could mutate into a form that is easily transmitted between humans, possibly sparking a pandemic, reports the AP.


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