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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 July 2006, 04:41 GMT 05:41 UK
Thailand records bird flu death
Market in Bangkok, July 2006
Thailand is one of the world's largest chicken exporters
A 16-year-old boy in Thailand has died of bird flu, local officials have said.

The teenager, from the northern province of Pichit, is the 15th person to die of the virus in the country and the first fatality this year.

Officials in Pichit recently confirmed Thailand's first outbreak of the virus among poultry for eight months.

Globally, more than 130 people have died of bird flu since late 2003. Most have been in East Asia, but the virus has also spread to Europe and Africa.

Millions of birds across the world have died or been culled because of the disease.

At the moment, the virus is essentially confined to birds and remains hard for people to catch.

But there is a fear that it could mutate to a form which is easily passed from human to human, triggering a pandemic and potentially putting millions of people's lives at risk.

More cases?

The latest bird flu victim is believed to have caught the virus while helping his father bury dead chickens last week.

"The final lab test confirmed that he died of bird flu," Kamnuan Ungchusak, the head of the Health Ministry's epidemiology bureau, told Reuters news agency.

The World Health Organization has yet to confirm the death.

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Health officials are closely monitoring three other suspected cases in Phichit, Public Health Minister Pinij Jarusombat said in a statement carried by the Associated Press.

The last human fatality in Thailand occurred in December 2005, but in recent weeks there have been warnings that bird flu could be making a resurgence.

Earlier this month, agricultural officials said they were keeping a close watch for possible outbreaks in areas that had been hit by heavy rains and flooding, because the virus can live longer in wet environments.

Last Tuesday they confirmed that the deadly H5N1 strain had been found in chickens in Pichit.

Other countries in South East Asia are also struggling to combat bird flu.

Indonesia has registered more human deaths this year than any other nation, and is soon likely to overtake Vietnam as the world's worst affected country.




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