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Bangladesh struggles to battle bird flu

Bird Flu Alert

Bangladesh

May 12,2007
Authorities are struggling to combat the deadly bird flu as it spreads across farms in the impoverished country, with a leading expert warning the situation is "very grave." First detected at a farm in late March near the capital Dhaka, it has so far infected more than 40 farms in 11 districts, prompting authorities to cull 151,000 birds. The technical adviser to the Bangladesh Poultry Association said the situation was worse than the government described. "The situation is very grave and a disaster could happen any time. There have been a lot of unreported bird flu deaths in farms and cover-ups. The flu is no longer confined to farms. Recently it infected domestic birds and fowls and there's a real danger it could infect humans" in densely populated Bangladesh. The farmers are not reporting bird flu deaths to government authorities for fear of losses in their farms and pressure by adjoining farms. There is hardly any monitoring." A farm in the northern Nilphamari district was the latest to be infected with the deadly virus on Friday. More than 3,000 chickens and ducks were culled. "The whole situation lacks transparency and even though we have had the flu for about two months, the government still lacks doctors, technical people and the protection kits to combat the disease." Bangladesh is home to hundreds of thousands of poultry farms employing more than a million people.

DISEASE THREATS
EGYPT has emerged as one of two countries hardest-hit by bird flu, along with Indonesia. While the panic in Europe and the U.S. has abated, Egypt records as many as five new cases every week. In April, a 15-year-old girl died after contracting the disease from the birds that shared her home. 14 people have died out of 34 reported infections. Moreover, the North African nation lies directly on a major bird-migration route between Europe and Africa. The country of 76 million people is effectively an incubator for the virus, increasing the chances it will spread to other countries. "We are dealing with a society where chickens are part of the family." What complicates matters is the general reluctance among Egyptians to believe government warnings on the dangers of bird flu and sharing living space with poultry. Bird flu broke out at about the same time 1,033 people perished in the sea when a ferry owned by a member of parliament sank in the Red Sea. "The problem is people think we fabricated the whole bird flu thing to cover up the ferry disaster." As many as 5 million Egyptian households raise poultry in their backyards, both as a source of nutrition and income. "The government wants men to be impotent to control over-population. It invented the bird flu to force us to eat the hormone-pumped chickens that make us sterile." Another man said he would divorce his wife if she cooked farmed or frozen chicken. "In this country, you never know the truth, never. They would poison us if they can. Trust me."

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