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The Thai Ministry of Public Health has ordered all of its provincial offices to be cautious against all types of bird flu throughout the coming winter season, particularly in areas with history of infections and provinces along the border.
The order to beef up observation came after a report of a new bird flu strain, H5N8, at a poultry farm in the Netherlands on November 17, where 150,000 chickens were killed and the country halted all deliveries of poultry and eggs for 72 hours.
Permanent Secretary for Public Health Dr Narong Sahamethapat said there have been no reports of H5N8 infection in Thailand as yet, though there have been multiple cases of NH5N1 infections.
The high ranking public health official said the region is now heading into the winter season, prompting different types of bird to seek warmer weather in Thailand, which this means that the bird flu could spread within the country again, despite the fact that Thailand has not seen any bird flu infections since 2006.
Dr Narong said Thailand is still at high risk of contracting H5N1 again, as the disease spread in neighbouring countries continuously last year, adding that better monitoring is needed along the border provinces, as there are still deliveries of poultry being made.
The public health permanent secretary said he has warned provincial offices of disease control and public health to be extra watchful of any signs of the virus spreading among humans and animals, especially in areas that have once been infected with the disease and along the Thai-Cambodian, Thai-Laos and Thai-Myanmar borders.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), there are seven strains of bird flu that could be passed to humans, the most acute being the H5N1 strain, which is still infecting human beings and animals alike.
The total number of patients diagnosed with H5N1 bird flu from 2003-2014 stands at 668, with 393 deaths from the disease in 16 countries globally. In 2014 alone, 19 patients in Cambodia, China, Egypt, Indonesia, and Vietnam were infected with the virus, and eight died from the disease.