New bird flu case confirmed in Afghanistan

A new case of the deadly bird flu strain has been confirmed in poultry in the eastern Afghan province of Kapisa, a U.N. official said Tuesday.

A United Nations-approved laboratory in Italy confirmed that samples recently taken from birds in Kapisa, about 70 kilometers (45 miles) east of the capital, Kabul, carried the deadly H5N1 avian influenza virus, said Assadullah Azhari, the Kabul-based spokesman for the world body's Food and Agriculture Organization.

Four Afghan provinces have now reported confirmed cases of H5N1, the others being Kabul, Logar and Nangarhar, Azhari told The Associated Press.

"It's a concern that the disease appears to be spreading, but it is doing slowly because of the manner in which people keep their birds inside their homes in most parts of the country," Azhari said.

The provinces of Laghman and Parwan are also "highly suspected" of having the deadly bird flu virus, but further U.N. testing is needed, he said.

Azhari was unaware whether bird culling had started in Kapisa, but said killing of birds suspected of having the virus has been taking place in Kabul. A stepped-up nationwide surveillance drive will start soon to search for more suspected cases, he said.

As yet there have been no cases recorded of Afghans being infected or dying from H5N1, but worldwide, more than 200 human cases of bird flu have been confirmed, including at least 113 deaths, according to the World Health Organization.

The virus has killed or prompted governments to destroy more than 140 million birds since late 2003 as the disease emerged in China and spread through Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa, reports the AP.


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