New H5N1 outbreak confirmed in chickens in central Thailand

The deadly H5N1 bird flu virus killed half-a-dozen chickens in central Thailand, the livestock department said Thursday, announcing the country's second outbreak of the disease in just over a week.

The fresh outbreak was confirmed by laboratory results on Thursday following the deaths on Jan. 23 of six chickens in a village in Ang Thong province, 80 kilometers (50 miles) east of Bangkok, said Nirand Uaebumrungsut, a veterinarian with the Agriculture Ministry's Department of Livestock Development, AP reports.

It was the second outbreak that week, after authorities on Jan. 23 reported that bird flu had been detected in hens in northeastern Thailand.

The infected chickens all belonged to one family, and another dozen birds in the immediate area were slaughtered, authorities said Thursday.

Officials said they were closely monitoring chickens within a 5-kilometer (3-mile) radius of the outbreak, estimated at about 100,000 birds, and watching for signs of any illegal movement of poultry which often happens after outbreaks are detected.

Since bird flu began ravaging Asia's poultry stocks in late 2003, the H5N1 bird flu virus has spread to the Middle East and Africa and killed 164 people around the world, according to the World Health Organization.

There have been 17 human deaths in Thailand, all linked to contact with sick birds. The WHO fears the virus could mutate into a form that easily spreads among humans, possibly sparking a pandemic.

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