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Last Updated: Saturday, 7 February, 2004, 13:19 GMT
Thailand holds 'Eat Chicken' day
Thai PM Thaksin Shinawatra helps make soup made with 10,000 eggs
The Thai government is accused of initially covering up the outbreak
The Thai government has given away tons of chicken to reassure people it is safe to eat after an outbreak of bird flu claimed six lives in the country.

Thousands watched as Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra fried chicken near the Grand Palace in the capital.

His aim, he said, was to tell the world that Thais have confidence in home-reared chicken.

Health experts say eating chicken meat and eggs is safe providing they are thoroughly cooked.

"I don't care if people love or hate me, but I ask that you love the country," the prime minister said in his radio address to the nation .

"If you don't eat chicken, people can't sell chickens, and they will lose their jobs. Everyone will have problems."

Regional spread

The virus has so far only jumped from poultry to humans, and there have been no reported cases of human to human transmission.

Indonesian chicken farmer brings out dead hens from his poultry farm in Jakarta
First jumped "species barrier" from bird to human in 1997
In humans, symptoms include fever, sore throat, and cough
Types which threaten humans are influenza A subtypes H5N1 and H9N2

Health experts are worried that if the virus mixes with a regular human influenza strain, it might create a mutant form that was able to pass between humans, triggering a human flu pandemic.

About half of Thailand's 76 provinces had now been hit by the virus.

Tens of millions of chickens and ducks have already been slaughtered across South East Asia as the outbreak also hit Vietnam, China, South Korea, Cambodia, Taiwan, Indonesia, Pakistan, Laos and Japan.

The Thai government has been accused of covering up the outbreak to try to protect the kingdom's $1.2bn poultry exporting industry.

Hundreds of booths are being set up across the country to stage chicken cooking sessions, and more than 50 tons of chicken meat and tens of thousands of eggs are being given away.

The climax of Saturday's extravaganza is a star-studded pop concert featuring Thongchai McIntyre, whose nickname is Bird.

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