Bird flu strain reported in Myanmar

Myanmar has detected the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu in chickens, pledging to handle the country's first outbreak with vigilance and transparency, government officials and the U.N. agriculture agency said Monday.

Experts confirmed an outbreak in the northern Mandalay area, said Than Tun, director of the country's livestock breeding and veterinary department.

"The first case of H5N1 avian flu strain has been detected," he told The Associated Press. "We are taking all measures to control the situation."

The virus was found after 112 chickens died outside of Myanmar's second largest city, Mandalay, said Laurence Gleeson, a senior official at the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, citing a report from the Myanmar government.

Gleeson said that testing was carried out at laboratories in Mandalay and Yangon, where technicians had received training in how to detect bird flu from the FAO and other international agencies.

"We have every reason to expect there is sufficient competence (in Myanmar) to make the diagnosis," Gleeson said. "If the government says they've got it, then they've got it."

Samples have also been sent to a laboratory in Australia, according to Than Tun, but Gleeson said the FAO had not been informed of that.

Than Tun said the nearly 800 chickens have been slaughtered as a precaution, and that experts were inspecting farms within a 3-kilometer (2-mile) radius of where the infected birds were found. He pledged that authorities would deal with any outbreak in a "transparent manner."

The virus had been detected in birds in four towns north of Mandalay, said Jum Conix, a WHO spokeswoman in Myanmar, citing the government report, reports the AP.

I.L.