ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Health authorities in Pakistan are doing tests on 12 workers from a farm where the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus was detected in poultry, a Health Ministry spokesman said on Tuesday.
Authorities confirmed on Monday an outbreak of the H5N1 strain of bird flu at a poultry farm on the outskirts of Karachi, the second case in four days in the country’s biggest city.
Twelve workers from the farm had been isolated and were being tested by a team from the World Health Organisation (WHO), the ministry spokesman said.
“They have been isolated and now a WHO team is there and is going to take another sample. Preliminary samples were taken and found negative but the WHO wants to confirm it,” said the spokesman, Orya Maqbool Jan Abbasi.
The H5N1 virus was first detected in Pakistan in early 2006. Pakistan’s first human case, which resulted in a death, was confirmed in December.
Authorities have found several outbreaks in poultry and other birds in North West Frontier Province, Islamabad and most recently Karachi, where the new outbreak was found on a farm 300 meters (yards) from where the virus was detected last week.
Tests were also being done on samples taken from poultry in Punjab province but no outbreak had been confirmed, Abbasi said.
“There have been a few incidents in which birds have died but it could be due to other conditions, maybe the weather and poor heating. It’s the first time in 50 or 60 years that such low temperatures have been faced by the Punjab people,” he said.
A woman had been tested for the virus in Peshawar, in North West Frontier Province, but found to be negative, he said.
In December, the World Health Organisation said it had established a single case of human infection of bird flu in a sick family in North West Frontier Province, but there was no apparent risk of its spreading further. The man died.
Meanwhile, Afghanistan has banned the import of chickens and poultry form Pakistan because of the bird flu outbreak, an Afghan border security official said.
“We have very strict orders from Kabul,” Afghan border police official Akhtar Jan told Reuters in the town of Spin Boldak, one of two main official border-crossing points between the neighbors.
“We’re not allowing any vehicle from Pakistan carrying chickens, chicken meat or eggs,” he said.
Afghanistan first detected the H5N1 virus in poultry in early 2006.
Reporting by Robert Birsel and Saeed Ali Achakzai; Editing by Katie Nguyen