New bird flu outbreaks confirmed in Malaysia

Two new outbreaks of the deadly H5N1 bird flu strain have been confirmed in poultry in northern Malaysia, the top agricultural official said Tuesday.

Tests have confirmed the virus in Changkat Legong and Titi Gantung districts in Perak state, where two other outbreaks were reported last week, but the situation is under control, Agriculture Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said at a news conference.

"I am not happy to declare that we have more bird flu cases, but we want to be transparent," he said. "The most important thing is that as birds are culled, no human has been infected."

On Monday, the government confirmed bird flu in neighboring Penang state. The H5N1 strain was also detected in four villages outside Kuala Lumpur in February, and appears to have spread from central to northern Malaysia in recent weeks.

However, no human infections from the virus have been reported so far in Malaysia.

Perak state official for agriculture, Mohamad Radzi Manan, said the two new infections were confirmed from tests on samples collected from village free-range chickens in the areas.

No chicken, birds or other poultry have died in the new outbreak areas, the national Bernama news agency quoted him as saying.

Lab tests on fowl in Perak will continue to help authorities quickly identify any spread and cull the sickened birds, he added.

Muhyiddin said new bird flu cases were detected in recent weeks because the ministry has conducted nationwide random tests of chickens in its effort to curb the disease, reports the AP.

I.L.