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Myanmar to end ban on fowl movement

The restrictions were imposed after the country's first outbreak of the H5N1 virus was detected in March and spread to 13 townships.

india Updated: Apr 27, 2006 15:05 IST

Bird flu in central Myanmar is under control and a ban on the sale and movement of poultry will be lifted within days, the Livestock Department said on Thursday.

The restrictions were imposed after the country's first outbreak of the H5N1 virus was detected in March and spread to 13 townships in central Myanmar.

Officials now say the disease is under control after thousands of birds and eggs were destroyed on hundreds of farms in Sagaing and Mandalay Divisions.

"The committees will lift the ban before the end of April and are making arrangements for the regular flow of commodities," the Livestock Breeding and Veterinary Dept (LBVD) said in a statement carried in state media on Thursday.

Restrictions in Yangon, where no outbreaks are known to have occurred, were lifted this week.

Livestock officials defended the decision to lift the bans, saying it would not hurt surveillance efforts against the disease now endemic in many parts of Asia.

"Lifting the ban does not mean stopping measures to prevent this disease. We'll continue monitoring and surveillance in cooperation with experts from FAO and others," Dr Myat Kyaw, a senior LBVD official, said.

Despite the military government's promise to stay vigilant, the decision is likely to unsettle neighbouring Thailand, where bird flu has not re-emerged for months.

Thailand is tightening surveillance along its porous border with Myanmar, fearing the disease could come across in smuggled poultry despite a ban on imports.

A senior official at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said two weeks ago Myanmar was battling more than 100 outbreaks of bird flu in poultry and the situation appeared to be "more serious than what we imagined".

He Changchui, the FAO's Asia-Pacific representative, said public awareness of bird flu in a nation ruled by military diktat for the past 44 years was a concern.

He also worried about getting accurate data from one of the most reclusive regimes in the world.

Thailand, Japan and UN agencies have sent experts, laboratory equipment, protective gear and vaccines to Myanmar since the first outbreak was announced on March 13.

There have been no reported human cases of H5N1 in Myanmar but it has killed 14 people in Thailand.

Scientists fear the virus, which has killed 113 people worldwide since 2003, could mutate into a form that jumps easily between people and start a global flu pandemic.

First Published: Apr 27, 2006 15:05 IST