BANGKOK, Thailand – A 13-year-old Thai boy died of bird flu Saturday, bringing to 20 the number of human fatalities from the disease that's also killed millions of chickens and ducks across Asia and is now feared to have jumped to other animals.
The boy died late at night at a hospital in the country's northeast, where he'd been in intensive care after testing positive for the avian flu virus on Thursday, said Charal Trinvuthipong, director-general of the Public Health Ministry's Department of Communicable Disease Control.
The disease is now confirmed in six human deaths in Thailand and 14 in Vietnam.
The Thai boy, whose identity hasn't been released, became sick 10 days after his family's chickens started dying mysteriously, a ministry statement said earlier.
"The boy's condition got slightly better before it worsened rapidly," and he then died, Charal said, adding that the disease had harmed the victim's kidneys.
The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization warned that the virus still has not been controlled in several Asian countries despite the culling of millions of chickens and ducks.
After ravaging poultry flocks, the disease is now hitting other species, killing a heron in Cambodia and possibly a leopard and cranes in Thailand and pheasants in Taiwan.
A zoo in northern Thailand has isolated two pandas from chickens that run loose near the bears' compound over fears about the spread of bird flu, the facility's director said Saturday, while a Cambodian zoo shut down its bird section after 56 wild birds and some 400 parakeets have mysteriously dropped dead.
Indian authorities said they plan to hold an emergency meeting of health and agricultural officials from seven South Asian nations on Monday in New Delhi to draft a strategy to prevent the spread of bird flu in the highly populous region.
A 1-year-old Thai girl from northeastern Kalasin province's Huay Mek district on Saturday became the latest person suspected of having the disease, said Dr. Thawat Sunthrajarn, deputy permanent-secretary of the Public Health Ministry.
The girl became sick with a fever and cough a week after her family's 10 chickens became sick and died, he said.
In Cambodia, a gray heron that died last month at a Cambodian zoo has tested positive for the avian flu, the country's third confirmed case of the H5N1 virus.
Pin Lyvun, the director of the Phnom Tamao (search) zoo, said the bird section of the zoo was closed over fears that bird flu could spread as officials tried to determine what killed 56 wild birds and some 400 parakeets.
In Thailand, Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment Prapat Panyachatraksa said Friday that tests showed that a clouded leopard died of bird flu on Jan. 27 at Khao Khiew Zoo in Chonburi province, 44 miles south of Bangkok.
A zoo official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the leopard might have eaten raw chicken infected with bird flu.
The World Health Organization (search) said if confirmed it could be the first known case of the disease found in a member of the cat family.
The exact strain that killed the leopard was still unclear, Prapat said.
Prapat also announced tests were being carried out on more than 200 cranes that died at Bungboraphet Bird Park in Nakhon Sawan province, 130 miles north of Bangkok.
Meanwhile at the Chiang Mai Zoo in Thailand's north, workers were trying to keep wild roosters and hens away from a pair of endangered pandas, zoo director Tanapat Pongpamorn said.
In Taiwan, officials ordered a pet bird farm in Taiwan's southern Tainan County to kill about 300 birds, including Swinhoe's pheasants (search) — a once-endangered indigenous bird with a short white crest and a blue head.
The culling was ordered after test results showed some of the birds were infected with H5N2 (search), a less dangerous strain of bird flu that has not jumped to humans.
Ten governments in the region have been dealing with strains of bird flu since South Korean officials reported an outbreak in December. Some Asian countries, as well as the United States, are being hit with the milder strain not thought to pose a danger to people.
World Health Organization officials have expressed concern that China may also be suffering human cases given the broad range of poultry infections in that sprawling country, which has confirmed avian flu in 14 of its 31 regions.
China on Saturday reported four new confirmed bird flu cases among poultry, all in the country's south.
Cases were found in the cities of Yangjiang, Maoming and Zhuhai, all in Guangdong province, and in Nanning, capital of the Guangxi region, the Agriculture Ministry said in a report carried by the official Xinhua News Agency.