( AP ) - Five Malaysians with flu-like symptoms were in a hospital isolation ward Friday as a precaution for bird flu, the health minister said, after the country's first reported outbreak of H5N1 among birds in more than a year.
The four males and one female age 11 months to 35 years were in stable condition and under observation after coming to Sungai Buloh Hospital on their own accord to seek treatment, said a statement from Health Minister Chua Soi Lek.
Chua stressed that so far, including the five patients, "no case that meets the definition of avian influenza infection among humans has been detected."
The statement did not specify whether the patients were being tested for bird flu. Other ministry officials said they could not immediately comment, and hospital authorities handling the matter could not immediately be contacted.
Veterinary officials said Tuesday that concerns about bird flu emerged after tests on 60 birds that died last week in Sungai Buloh, near Malaysia's commercial capital, Kuala Lumpur, confirmed they had the H5N1 bird flu virus.
Since then, health authorities have visited 4,556 villagers in 742 homes in the area to look for anyone suffering symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat or breathing difficulties, Chua said.
However, he said 17 people with mild fevers have been ordered to remain at home until health officials, who will check on them periodically, give them clearance to leave.
Animal health officials were still destroying birds within a 1-kilometer ( 0.6 mile) radius of the villages hit by the outbreak, Chua said. Authorities have said they expect to kill about 6,000 birds, mainly backyard village chickens, by the end of this week.
Malaysia last reported an outbreak of the virulent H5N1 bird flu strain in March 2006, in chickens in a northern village. The government declared the country free of bird flu in June 2006.
No other birds in Sungai Buloh have been reported to have died of bird flu since the weekend.
Officials have said they need to analyze the case further to determine the origin of the virus, and have stressed that the outbreak was an isolated incident.
Bird flu has killed at least 189 people since H5N1 started ravaging Asian poultry flocks in late 2003, according to the World Health Organization. There have been no fatalities in Malaysia.