About 5,000 chickens ranging in age from 3 to 12 months have died at a chicken farm in Wekyun Hteinthit quarter in Dawei township since 16 July due to an outbreak of the H5N1 virus, also known as avian or bird flu, according to the Yangon Animal Diseases Searching Laboratory.
The pathogenic animal deaths in the capital of the Tanintharyi Region due to the highly contagious Type A of the H5N1 virus, which affect both humans and animals, have prompted a ban on the sale of chickens and eggs in the area.
Dr. Ye Tun Win, director-general of Animal Husbandry and the Veterinary Department, said all facilities in the area, most of them operated out of residential backyards, have been cleaned, and monitoring of abnormal deaths will be ongoing.
“As regards the outbreak of H5N1, all chicken farming backyards had already been cleansed. Checks and examinations are under way as to whether there has been a spread of the disease by disease control teams, with educative talks being held among the people. Systematic prevention works are being carried out as it spread quickly just after a person is infected with the disease. Selling chicken, chicken meat and egg is strictly prohibited in the area.”
The Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Department sent samples of the disease to Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL) in Geelong, Australia in combination with the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN to learn about the specimens of the disease.
The Cabinet of Taninthayi Region issued a news release on 26th July, in which the local people are advised not to consume chicken, ducks and their by-products and not to carry avian items from one place to another.
Dr Ye Tun Win said systematic procedures are in place to control the disease.
“Cleansing measures had been carried out in the Dawei Chicken Farming on 22nd July. Out of 5 chicken farming businesses nearby, there are chickens in four businesses with no sign of infection. Those in the above four (businesses) were cleansed on the night of 27 July. For the disease not to spread, infectious chickens were burnt to death and buried in the 10-feet-deep holes.
After that, insecticide spraying was done. The test period is 90 days. After 90 days, if the virus was not found, it will be declared free from the disease. If the virus is found, another 90-day period will be designated again”.
Dr. Min Thein Maw, an official with the animal husbandry and veterinary department, said the type of avian flu found in Dawei affects both humans and birds.
“Avian flu is categorized into three groups — A, B and C. The A group is the virus type which easily infects both humans and animals. H5N1 was found to have spread to humans and chickens. According to statistics issued by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on 15th July, in 16 countries avian flu caused 859 flu patients, claiming 453 deaths, roughly half of the victims.”
In Myanmar, the first outbreak of A/H5N1 was in 2006, and eight other times since than. In all nine outbreaks, disease control was successfully managed under the emergency protection and control project, according to the animal husbandry and veterinary department.
“The Central Committee for protection of avian flu was formed, with regional committees formed in their respective areas. By sending projects to be performed to these committees, measures were made to be carried out. As soon as the outbreaks happened in Dawei, the remaining regions and states are simultaneously examining whether there were similar outbreaks in their regions or not”, the director-general said.
The H5N1 outbreak comes as the H1N1 seasonal “swine flu” which has killed six people so far in Yangon and in remote Matupi in Chin state. The health ministry said at least 39 people have contracted the H1N1 virus.
The ministry has urged people to wear masks and wash their hands frequently as protective measures, especially during the rainy season, when influenza normally spreads in the country.
By Shin Min