China has reported two more outbreaks of the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu in its poultry, amid fears of a spike in the disease as winter approaches. The new cases were detected in Fuxin and Jinzhou in the north-eastern province of Liaoning.
There have now been six bird flu outbreaks in China in the past month.
No human infection has been confirmed in China, but the WHO will this weekend test samples from three Chinese people suspected of having the disease. On Tuesday, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said the country faced a "very serious situation" and urged areas with a large number of poultry to draft emergency plans.
About 1,100 chickens have died in the latest outbreaks in Liaoning, which happened on family farms. Authorities have so far culled 170,000 poultry in and around Chaoyangsi village in Fuxin, and 500,000 poultry in Jinzhou's Daling village, according to Xinhua news agency. One hundred and sixteen people have been put under quarantine.
Liaoning has suffered a previous outbreak, and other cases have been reported in northern China's Inner Mongolia, eastern China's Anhui and in the central province of Hunan. Agriculture Minister Du Qingling warned on Wednesday that the country faced a "disaster" due to the use of sub-standard and fake poultry vaccines.
The WHO will try and establish whether a 12-year old girl, her brother and a teacher, all from Hunan province, have been suffering from bird flu. The girl died last month. Indonesia also said on Thursday that initial tests suggest a teenager died from the disease, although more tests were needed. This would be the country's sixth human fatality from bird flu.
And Thailand, which has lost 13 of its citizens, reported a new outbreak on the outskirts of the capital, Bangkok, according to Reuters news agency. Bird flu has already killed at least 62 people elsewhere in Asia since the outbreak began in late 2003. The disease appears to thrive in the colder temperatures of the Asian winter.
The international community is still grappling with how to deal with the disease, amid fears that it could lead to a human pandemic if the virus became easily transmissible between humans, reports BBC news. I.L.
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