Associated Press

Bangkok, February 24

Thailand plans to insert identifying microchips in up to 200,000 fighting cocks and force them to undergo regular health checks because of fears they could spread bird flu, while Taiwan today ordered the cull of about 113,000 infected chickens.

The sick birds in Taiwan were hit with H5N2, a less dangerous strain of the disease sweeping Asia, the Council of Agriculture said.

The island has not reported any outbreaks of the more virulent H5N1 version that has killed 15 people in Vietnam and seven in Thailand.

The chickens to be culled are on farms in the central Changhua region and in the southern county of Kaohsiung.

The avian influenza virus has forced authorities in 10 Asian countries and territories to cull more than 80 million chickens and other fowl.

US farmers also are dealing with bird flu. Agriculture officials said yesterday that a highly contagious strain of avian flu was found at a Texas chicken farm, but they added it was a different strain from the one that has killed humans in Asia.

News of the outbreak prompted the Philippines today to ban imports of chicken and poultry products from Texas while South Korea banned all US poultry imports.