Japanese agriculture officials today (Thursday) temporarily suspended imports of poultry from Thailand after Thai officials reported three people are being tested for avian influenza, or bird flu.
Japan imports about one-third of its poultry products from Thailand.
Thai health officials have been insisting for weeks that Thailand is free of the deadly bird flu virus, but a Thai senator who is also a doctor reported that a seven-year-old boy has contracted the disease. The senator accused the government of trying to cover up the truth - a charge Thai officials deny.
Wednesday, Public Health Minister Sudarat Keyuraphan urged the public and the media not to panic and said it will be a few days before test results can determine whether three patients with pnemonia-like symptoms have contracted bird flu.
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra later in the day echoed the health minister's comments.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization says Asia is facing one of the worst outbreaks of bird flu ever recorded. The U.N. health agency is expressing mounting concern over five human deaths in Vietnam.
Information for this report is provided by AP and Reuters.