BANGKOK, Thailand, October 21, 2004 (ENS):
Disease control authorities Wednesday ordered that at
least 30 tigers with symptoms of avian influenza at
a private zoo will be killed to stop the disease from
spreading. Tigers began to sicken with flu-like symptoms
last week, and 30 have died since October 14.
At least 400 tigers are housed at Sriracha Tiger Zoo
in Chon Buri province in the eastern part of the country.
The tigers to be culled will be injected with potassium
chloride to end their lives, officials said. The carcasses
will be incinerated at a high temperature or buried
at least one meter underground.
Officials have separated the sick tigers from the healthy
ones and sprayed disinfectants throughout the zoo, which
will be closed indefinately.
Dr. Charal Trinwuthipong, director of the government’s
bird flu center, said the tigers could only have picked
up the disease from infected raw chicken meat, even
though the virus was not found on samples taken from
the zoo, or from freshly prepared samples.
The sick tigers were all fed chicken meat from the
same processing company, said Trinwuthipong, who is
acting permanent secretary of the Public Health Ministry
and director-general of the Disease Control Department.
The 100 acre facility, which bills itself as the largest
tiger zoo in the world, is a tourist attraction, but
it has been closed since Tuesday to protect the public
from the bird flu.
Tiger keepers and cage cleaners are in danger of becoming
infected with the flu, officials said, because they
were working at the zoo when the 30 tigers sickened
In February 2004, scientists in Thailand confirmed
the first cases of Asian bird flu in cats. The H5N1
strain of the virus is most often found in intensively
farmed chickens, but affects other bird and animal species,
Since the beginning of this year, Thailand has reported
16 laboratory confirmed cases of H5N1 infection in humans,
of which 11 have been fatal. Four of these cases have
occurred during the past six weeks.
During the past 12 months this strain of bird flu has
killed at least 38 people in several Asian countries.
Officials worry that the H5N1 avian flu virus could
be contracted by an animal that can also host a human
flu virus. There, they fear, it could mutate and spread
through a human population without immunity with deadly
In February, veterinarian Teeraphon Sirinauemit announced
in Bangkok that H5N1 bird flu had been found in at least
two domestic cats and a white tiger. The discovery was
significant, he said, because every time the virus jumps
to another species, the risk of mutation into a human
In January, a clouded leopard died of bird flu at a
zoo near Bangkok, the first mammal to be killed by the
virus besides humans. The virus was discovered in the
leopard by researchers at the Animal Hospital of Kasetsart
University in Bangkok.
Still, World Health Organization officials say there
is no current evidence of cat-to-cat or cat-to-human
transmission of H5N1 bird flu.
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2004. All