Bird flu in Myanmar more 'serious' than initially thought

Bird flu in Myanmar is more serious than originally thought, with 100 outbreaks detected in the country since the deadly avian virus was first confirmed last month, an official from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Agency said Monday.

He Changchui, the FAO's regional representative, said that authorities initially believed that the deadly H5N1 virus was limited to two outbreaks.

"The situation there was more serious than we imagined," he told a news conference in Bangkok. "Up to now, there are over 100 outbreaks."

Since confirming the outbreak of bird flu in the Mandalay and Sagaing regions on March 13, authorities have slaughtered some 500,000 chickens and quails at more than 400 farms in efforts to prevent the spread of the disease.

The FAO official said Myanmar didn't have the means, including diagnostic equipment and protective gear, to adequately cope with the spread of the disease.

"The awareness is rather poor. The information is not that comprehensive," he added.

He said that two FAO teams have been working in the country along with other international experts. A team from the U.N. World Health Organization is expected to arrive later this month.

Myanmar ranks as one of the world's poorest nations, with its military rulers suspicious of foreign influence and reluctant to reveal the seriousness of problems it faces, including the rampant spread of AIDS, reports the AP.

I.L.