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September 20, 2006

Nabarro: Thai political crisis may have helped resurgence of H5N1

Via FT.com: Thai political crisis "may have increased bird flu." Excerpt:

Thailand’s continuing political crisis may have contributed to a resurgence of bird flu in the country, according to the United Nations official co-ordinating the global fight against the disease.

Both Thailand and Vietnam have been praised for their stringent efforts to fight the H5N1 virus in poultry and until July neither had reported a single human case this year, even as the virus has in the past nine months killed 37 people in nearby Indonesia.

Authorities in Thailand, however, have since July reported two human fatalities from the virus, while Vietnam last month reported its first outbreaks in poultry this year.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Dr David Nabarro, the UN’s senior co-ordinator for avian influenza, said that Vietnam’s response remained admirable. But he was concerned that the political crisis in Thailand might have weakened the country’s response.

It remained unclear, he said, how or why the H5N1 virus resurfaced in a Thai province along the Mekong River border with Laos in July and August.

But he said: “You don’t maintain control over this disease unless there is regular top-level direction from a committed senior political figure that wants to be sure that the necessary activities are being undertaken.”

Thailand has been without a fully functioning government since February, when Thaksin Shinawatra, prime minister, dissolved parliament, hoping to end the controversy over his family’s tax-free $1.9bn (€1.5bn, £1bn) sale of their 49 per cent stake in Shin Corp, the telecoms empire, to Singapore’s Temasek Holdings.

Posted by dymaxion at September 20, 2006 10:45 PM

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