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US Agency Opens Bird Flu Center

USAID has opened a regional center to stock protective gear in Thailand to help protect Southeast Asia from bird flu, the US embassy said in a statement.

"Larger than a soccer field, the Bangkok warehouse contains enough personal protective equipment, decontamination kits and laboratory equipment to serve tens of thousands of people throughout Southeast Asia," the statement said.

"With the establishment of this regional distribution center in Thailand, USAID is in a position to rapidly re-supply the [Cambodian Ministry of Agriculture] in the advent of an [avian influence] outbreak," Erin Soto, Cambodia mission director for USAID, said in the statement.

"The first of three regional centers being planned worldwide, the depots will ensure a rapid response to any outbreaks of the deadly H5N1 virus, commonly called 'bird flu,' because it strikes animals, particularly poultry," the embassy statement said. "Millions of chickens and ducks have been wiped out despite billions of poultry vaccinations and culling of hundreds of millions of more birds."

The US aid agency spent nearly $550,000 stocking the Bangkok depot, the statement said.

Donors such as the World Bank, Japan and the EU have given around $11 million to help fight bird flu through the end of March.