On Wednesday samples taken from the dead birds tested positive for the H5N1 virus strain, the department of veterinary services confirmed.

 

Kamarudin Mohammed Isa, the department's disease control chief, said poultry farms in the affected village were being closely monitored, adding it was difficult to pin down the source of infection.

 

"We are closely monitoring the area. There is no reason to be alarmed. Everything is under control," Kamarudin told the Associated Press on Thursday.

 

Road blocks

 

Malaysia was declared free from bird flu a
year ago [AFP]
Veterinary teams destroyed 1,359 birds and 438 chicken eggs on Wednesday, while police road blocks had been set up to prevent villagers from smuggling chickens out of the area, he said.

 

"We expect to cull a total of more than 2,000 chickens and fowl in the area. These are mainly backyard village chickens," Kamarudin said.

 

No other birds in Sungai Buloh have died of bird flu since the weekend, and there have been no reports of people suffering any symptoms, such as fever.

 

The prime minister has ordered immediate measures to prevent the spread of the virus.

 

Malaysia, which was declared free of the deadly disease in June last year, has not reported any human cases of the disease so far.

 

Neighbouring Singapore was swift to respond by suspending all poultry and egg imports from Selangor "as a precautionary measure with immediate effect".

 

Worldwide, according to the World Health Organisation, the virus has killed at least 188 people since it started infecting poultry in Asia in late 2003.

 

Indonesia has reported the highest number of H5N1 fatalities, with at least 79 people killed by the virus out of 99 infections reported to date.

 

Meanwhile, Malaysian shares took a knock from the news, weighed down by concerns over the spread of the bird flu outbreak.

 

Shares in poultry firms and fast-food chains both dipped sharply on Thursday as investors factored in an expected drop in demand for chickens.