By Nancy-Amelia Collins
A World Health Organization official has warned of the likelihood of more human deaths from the bird flu virus, after the death of a teenage boy in Thailand this week.
On Wednesday, an 18-year-old Thai boy , who raised fighting cocks, became Asia's 28th human victim of bird flu this year.
Komsan Fukhom contracted the H5N1 strain of the virus late last month following the death of 30 of his birds. The teenager initially refused medical treatment, and doctors say when he did enter the hospital, it was too late to save him.
Thai health officials have now placed a 16-year-old, who was close to the victim and who also handled the birds, under watch for signs of the disease.
An earlier outbreak of the virus this year left eight people dead in Thailand and 16 in Vietnam. Tens of millions of fowl across the region died or were slaughtered to stop the spread of the disease, devastating poultry industries.
The virus re-emerged in July in Vietnam, Thailand, China, Malaysia and Indonesia. Three more people died in Vietnam.
Peter Cordingley, the WHO's Western Pacific Office spokesman, says this is not the end of human death from bird flu.
"We think the virus is in the environment," said Peter Cordingley. "Almost no progress has been made in the big job of eradicating it. So, I'm afraid that almost certain, there's going to be more human deaths and more outbreaks in poultry, until we get something like a grip on [get control of] this."
The WHO spokesman says the disease is now endemic in Asia, and the focus has to be on containment.
"I think the early target should be containment," he said. "That works through surveillance, infection control, transparency - reporting when there are problems, so that the right responses can be put in place."
So far, only people who have come into contact with infected poultry have contracted the disease.
But health officials worldwide are concerned the flu virus could change to a form that can be transmitted from human to human, possibly causing a global flu pandemic.
Nancy-Amelia Collins, for VOA News, Bangkok.