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Malaysian teams fan out to contain spread of H5N1 bird flu virus

Veterinary teams inspecting livestock in four villages have slaughtered more than 1,300 birds in efforts to contain Malaysia's first reported outbreak of bird flu in more than a year, an animal health official said Thursday.

Tests on a sample of 60 birds who died last week in Sungai Buloh, near Malaysia's commercial capital Kuala Lumpur, confirmed they had the H5N1 bird flu virus, the Veterinary Services Department said Tuesday.

Since then, authorities have deployed more than 120 veterinary, medical and other officers to check birds and conduct house-to-house inspections in four villages in Sungai Buloh, Selangor state, said Kamarudin Mohammed Isa, the department's disease control chief.

"We are closely monitoring the area. There is no reason to be alarmed. Everything is under control," Kamarudin told The Associated Press.

Animal health officials destroyed 1,359 birds and 438 chicken eggs on Wednesday, and police have set up road blocks to ensure villagers don't smuggle chickens out of the area, he said.

"We expect to cull a total of more than 2,000 chickens and fowl in the area. These are mainly backyard village chickens," Kamarudin said.

Malaysia last reported an outbreak of the virulent H5N1 strain in March 2006 in chickens in a northern village. The government declared the country free of bird flu in June 2006.

No other birds in Sungai Buloh have died of bird flu since the weekend, and there have been no reports of people suffering any symptoms, such as fever, Kamarudin said.

A state-owned commercial duck farm near the affected village, Paya Jaras Hilir, is under observation and authorities have taken sample swabs from thousands of ducks reared in the farm, he said.

"It is difficult to pinpoint the origin of the infection," he said, adding that further analysis will be conducted to determine the source of the virus. He reiterated that it was an isolated incident.

Bird flu has killed at least 189 people since H5N1 started ravaging Asian poultry flocks in late 2003, according to the World Health Organization. There have been no fatalities in Malaysia.

Neighboring Singapore has suspended poultry and egg imports from Selangor state.