Lab tests show outbreak of bird flu in Afghanistan

Lab tests have confirmed the first outbreak of the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu in war-ravaged Afghanistan, the United Nations and the government said Thursday. Sweden also announced an outbreak of the virulent virus after two wild birds were found to be infected.

In India, health workers slaughtered tens of thousands of chickens in dozens of villages Thursday to contain the country's second bird flu outbreak, a senior official said. The culling was to be completed Friday.

A joint U.N.-Afghan statement said samples taken from six birds in the capital, Kabul, and the eastern city of Jalalabad tested positive for the virus, raising concern about how the impoverished Central Asian nation's government will deal with an outbreak of the disease, which has ravaged poultry populations across the globe and killed at least 98 people.

"The H5N1 strain of avian influenza has today been confirmed in Afghanistan in six samples," the statement said. "Thus far in Afghanistan, avian influenza remains confined to the bird population, with no human cases reported. It is imperative that the human population is protected."

The government has already sought international aid to buy protective clothing for its staff, as well as chemical disinfectant and vaccines. Afghanistan's public veterinary system is weak and no quarantine system exists to check imported poultry at borders.

Bird culling will begin in affected areas, markets selling poultry will be closed and disinfected and a public awareness campaign will be launched to teach people about the dangers of the virus, the statement said.

Afghanistan lies at a crossroads for migratory birds, and its neighbors, including Iran and India, have already detected outbreaks of the virus, which has killed or forced the slaughter of tens of millions of chickens and ducks across Asia since 2003, reports the AP .


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