The Livestock Department in Myanmar announced on Thursday that the bird flu is under control in Myanmar and that the ban on the sale and movement of poultry would be lifted within days before the end of April.
The department also said that the country would stay vigilant against new outbreaks. The military government has decided to remove restrictions imposed after the virus was first detected in March and spread to 13 townships in central Myanmar as no new outbreaks of the H5N1 virus in poultry.
Livestock officials said 70 outbreaks were under control after thousands of birds and eggs were destroyed on hundreds of farms in Sagaing and Mandalay Divisions. Dr. Myat Kyaw, a senior official in the Livestock Breeding and Veterinary Dept (LBVD) said that the lifting of the ban would not mean stopping measures to prevent this disease.
He said that they will continue monitoring and surveillance in cooperation with experts from FAO and others like the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization which agreed with the decision. Ram Chaudhary, the chief technical adviser for FAO said that the tough restrictions were no longer necessary as no new outbreaks had been reported for 3 weeks. He went on to explain that Myanmar was a very strict country and nobody could cook or sell chicken on the streets.
In Yangon, where no outbreaks are known to have occurred but poultry was off limits for several weeks, poultry prices rebounded as people ate chicken again. The LBVD said it would continue to spray farms and monitor poultry markets and movements in Sagaing and Mandalay, which is a very important historic hub for trade between India, China and Thailand.
This decision seems to have unsettled the neighbouring Thailand, where bird flu has not re-emerged for months. Thailand said this week it was tightening surveillance along its porous border with Myanmar, fearing the disease could come across in smuggled poultry despite a ban on imports. Officials in the Thai capital Bangkok said that the city would be hosting a regional bird flu meeting next month where assisting Myanmar will be a top priority. Thailand has earmarked $2.5 million to train and equip officials from poorer neighbouring countries.
Disease Control Department chief Thawat Suntrajarn said that Myanmar is in dire need of help now, as their health system isn't enough to fight the outbreaks. Thailand, Japan and U.N. agencies have sent experts, equipment and vaccines to the former Burma since the first outbreak was announced on March 13 and more is on the way. There have been no reported human cases of H5N1 in Myanmar but it has killed 14 people in Thailand.
Scientific community around the world fear that the virus, which has killed 113 people worldwide since 2003, could mutate into a form that jumps easily between people and start a global flu pandemic.