Bird Flu Alarm

2006-03-21-Pakistan confirms bird flu cases

Understanding Avian Influenza

2006-03-21-Pakistan confirms bird flu cases

Tests have confirmed Pakistan's first cases of the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu, officials say.
The virus has been detected in chickens in two farms in north-west Pakistan which have now been sealed off, reports quote officials as saying.

The presence of the strain was confirmed by the European Union's Reference Laboratory for Avian Influenza in England.

The virus has already been detected in neighbouring India and Afghanistan.

Earlier this month, nearly 25,000 chickens were slaughtered in the two farms in the Abbotabad and Charsadda districts of Pakistan's North West Frontier Province (NWFP) after the virus was detected.

The samples were then sent to the EU laboratory in England.

"The laboratory has given a positive report about the presence of H5N1 virus at the two farms," Mohammad Afzal, a spokesman for the food and agriculture ministry, told the AFP news agency.

He said the rest of the country was not at risk.

"No such virus was detected in other samples sent to the same laboratory, taken from different parts of the country," he said.

Mass slaughter

Last week, two cases of H5N1 were confirmed in Afghanistan and a decision has been taken to cull birds.

Nearly 900 chicken farms have been closed in Jalalabad, where one of the cases was detected.

Tens of thousands of chickens have been slaughtered in western India after several cases of H5N1 were detected in Maharashtra state.

But there have been no cases of the virus being passed on to humans

The H5N1 virus does not at present pose a large-scale threat to humans, as it cannot pass easily from one person to another.

However, experts fear the virus could mutate to gain this ability, and in its new form trigger a flu pandemic, potentially putting millions of human lives at risk.

Understanding Avian Influenza