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Thailand Confirms 2 Cases of Bird Flu - 2004-01-23


Health officials in Bangkok say they have confirmed two human cases of bird flu in central Thailand.

Reports say both victims are children who live near poultry farms.

Health Minister Sudarat Keyuraphun told reporters today (Friday) the infected patients live in central Suphanburi and Kanchanaburi provinces. She said tests on a third patient had come up negative.

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said earlier that health officials were testing five people for the bird flu virus. Tests on the two other people are not yet available.

Bird flu, or avian influenza, can be deadly for humans, although experts believe the virus can only be contracted by close contact with infected poultry -- not from humans.

Five people have died this month in Vietnam, and the World Health Organization says Asia is facing one of the worst outbreaks of bird flu ever recorded.

Thailand is one of the world's largest poultry exporters, and today's news immediately sent Thai chicken producers' share prices plunging. Reuters (news service) reports the kingdom's top economic and health officials have been meeting urgently on how to cope with the outbreak.

Japan, one of the two biggest importers of Thai chicken products, already has suspended poultry imports from Thailand, and European Union officials say they will announce a ban later today.

Information for this report is provided by AP and AFP.

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