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Bird Flu Poses Serious Threat to Humans, Warn Int'l Groups - 2004-01-27

Three international health and food safety organizations are warning that the bird flu outbreak in Asia is a serious threat to human health that requires international action.

In a joint statement released on Tuesday, the World Health Organization, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Organization for Animal Health said the longer bird flu circulates among humans and farm animals in Asia, the greater the risk it will spread worldwide.

The organizations called bird flu an economic disaster for farmers and the poultry industry and appealed for donors to help off set the losses.

An international conference is set for Wednesday in Bangkok to discuss the best ways of fighting the outbreak which has claimed eight human lives - two in Thailand and six in Vietnam.

Meanwhile, a senior Lao agriculture official announced laboratory tests, carried out in Hanoi, have confirmed that an outbreak of bird flu killed hundreds of chickens in Laos.

In addition to Thailand, Vietnam and Laos, the epidemic has also affected Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, Indonesia, Pakistan and Cambodia, where two people are being tested for bird flu.

Media reports say that China is investigating reports that bird flu may have been responsible for the deaths of hundreds of ducks in the southern Guangxi region.

Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.