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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Nov. 10) – The threat of a bird flu outbreak is being taken very seriously, it seems, in parts of the country by grassroots farmers.

In the capital Port Moresby, farmers at the Morata settlement have been reporting to the National Agriculture Quarantine and Inspection Authority (NAQIA) that chickens in a number of small poultries were dying from unknown reasons.

In Bougainville last weekend, a farmer was reported to have slaughtered all his chickens in fear of bird flu after hearing of it on the radio.

[PIR editor’s note: Bougainville is located in the northeastern region of Papua New Guinea.]

Around the world, leaders are meeting to find common ground from which to fight any outbreak.

Back home yesterday, a NAQIA veterinarian allayed fears, saying that the chickens in Port Moresby had died of heat stress.

Southern Region veterinarian Dr. David Thompson said tests carried out at the Kilakila veterinary clinic over the past week had confirmed the chickens had all died of heat stress, and not the dreaded avian influenza, or H5N1.

Nevertheless, he was thankful people were reporting these poultry deaths.

He said if there was anything suspicious, he would send samples for further tests in Australia.

"I’ve investigated several incidents over the last couple of weeks and none of them were due to infectious diseases. The principle cause of all the deaths was heat stress, the onset of high humidity,’’ he said.

Dr. Thompson said he was in Morata yesterday morning to investigate further reports of chickens dying for unknown reason and found a similar cause for the deaths.

"With the publicity, people are thankfully reporting these deaths, but so far they (deaths) are all due to heat stress,’’ Dr. Thompson said.

Nurses Association Lawrence Namaro told the Post-Courier a nurse living in Morata No: 1 has been told by the people that on Tuesday last week, five chickens had died all of a sudden for some unknown reason.

On Tuesday, this week another 10 had died and many others were sick with "running nose and red eyes’’.

Another nurse living at Morata No:2 also said there were reports of chickens dying in the area.

Sister Geli Kerup, who lives at the clinic in Morata No:1, could not be reached for comment, but she is understood have reported the matter to the National Disaster and Emergency Office.

Meanwhile, Dr. Thompson said the symptoms of the avian influenza differed from bird type to another, but in chickens the general symptoms included a large flock of birds dying over a short space of time; swelling of the tissues under the feet, tips of the wings and frequent discharge from the nostrils.

November 11, 2005

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