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Malaysia culls poultry as bird flu reappears

By Bazuki Muhammad (From Reuters AlertNet of February 21, 2006)

DANAU KOTA, Malaysia, Feb 21 (Reuters) - Malaysia stepped up its defences against bird flu on Tuesday, killing suspect poultry and sending health officials to track any human infections, after it reported its first case of H5N1 virus in more than a year.
The fresh case of bird flu hit shares of poultry farms and prompted neighbour Singapore to suspend imports from the central Malaysian state of Selangor, where officials said the virus had killed 40 chickens last week.
H5N1 avian influenza has spread in chickens from Korea, across China, south into Indonesia, west across Turkey into western Europe and into the African continent.
It has killed or forced the culling of more than 200 million birds in 32 countries and Hong Kong. While it does not easily infect people yet, it has sickened 170 people and killed 92, according to the latest World Health Organization figures.
Malaysian Health Minister Chua Soi Lek said he was scrambling staff to check the health of people living up to 300 m (1,000 ft) from the site of the case, on the edge of the Malaysian capital.
"There's no cause for worry because no human beings are infected," Chua told reporters. "I hope those in Kuala Lumpur will not be influenced by the rumours."
He said the period of surveillance will depend on the number of households involved, but he did not say how many there were.
No human cases have so far been reported in Malaysia, which had last reported the H5N1 virus in a chicken in the northern state of Kelantan on Nov. 22, 2004.
Announcing the new case on Monday, Agriculture Minister Muhyiddin Yassin called it an isolated event, and said that all 110 infected chickens had been destroyed.
Veterinary officers went from door to door early on Tuesday confiscating chickens and pet birds, said residents of Danau Kota, a precinct close to where the case originated.
"I saw them catching chickens, and I helped them," said Azlan Azilman, 18, a school-leaver who joined the culling operation in the precinct consisting mostly of wooden homes for poor people.
"At least 50 chickens and birds were killed."
Schoolboy Afiq Bakar, 17, said three policemen and seven veterinary officials knocked on his door early on Tuesday.
"They came in and asked me to take the birds out of their cages," said Afiq, who has kept pet birds as a hobby for nine years. "They put them into a white plastic bag and then the birds died."

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