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Malaysia Says Outbreak of Bird Flu Is Contained - 2004-08-23

Malaysia says it has contained its first outbreak of a strain of bird flu virus that has claimed more than two dozen human lives in Southeast Asia this year.

The government says swift action to stamp out the last week's avian flu virus outbreak in the northern state of Kelantan has worked.

Tests on several people with flu-like symptoms in the village near the Thai border where the outbreak occurred have all proved negative, meaning the virus in Malaysia has not jumped from birds to humans.

Dr. Hawari Hussein, director general of the Department of Veterinary Services, says steps to cull more than 350 chickens and ducks in a 10-kilometer area around the affected village have worked.

"What we have reported today is that all steps to contain and eliminate the infection is going well. We have finished culling the susceptible animals in the area affected, followed by disinfection and decontamination," Dr. Hawari says.

However, the World Health Organization said on Monday it could take at least several years to contain the virus in Asia as a whole. The viral strain in question is known as H5N1.

Last week's outbreak of H5N1 virus came just weeks after Malaysia said it was free of the disease. Authorities here believe the virus was brought from Thailand in the droppings of wild birds.

Authorities in Thailand and Vietnam are stepping up their own efforts to fight the disease, which killed two dozen people in the two countries early this year, and another three in Vietnam as the virus reappeared in recent weeks.

Mr. Hawari says there is no indication that the virus that caused the Malaysian outbreak was changing into a new form.

So far, humans have become infected only by handling diseased birds. Scientists fear, however, that the more people who get the virus, the greater the chance that it will change into a new strain that can be passed between humans.