Pakistan confirms new bird flu outbreak in NWFP

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistani authorities have detected an outbreak of H5N1 bird flu in chickens in a part of the northwest where the country recently had its first human death from the virus, a government official said on Saturday.

The new outbreak was found in North West Frontier Province (NWFP), the official said.

“Samples from a poultry farm sent to us from Abbottabad have tested positive for the virus,” Food and Agriculture Ministry official Rafiq-ul-Usmani said, referring to a town in the province. “We have already started culling at the farm.”

Several outbreaks of the H5N1 strain of avian influenza in poultry and other birds have been found in NWFP and the capital, Islamabad, since it was first detected in Pakistan in early 2006.

Pakistan confirmed its first human death from the virus in an area near Abbottabad in December.

Authorities confirmed two outbreaks at separate poultry farms in Pakistan’s biggest city Karachi, in the south, early this month. Health authorities tested 12 workers from the farms for the H5N1 virus, but all of them proved negative.

The president of the Pakistan Poultry Association, Abdul Basit, said the outbreaks had badly hit the industry, which he estimated was worth 200 billion rupees (around $3.2 billion).

“The industry employs about 1.5 million people and losses in February alone are close to 4 billion rupees.”

Some Pakistanis have stopped eating chicken but the bird flu outbreaks have not caused general public alarm.

Avian influenza story source: Reuters

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