Bird Flu Alarm

2005-10-19-EU Assesses Western Bird Flu Fears

Understanding Avian Influenza

2005-10-19-EU Assesses Western Bird Flu Fears

(CBS/AP) The European Union on Wednesday assessed fears that bird flu was spreading further into Europe after suspicions emerged that the disease had reached Macedonia.

Also, early tests detected the deadly strain of bird flu in samples taken from a region south of Moscow where hundreds of birds died suddenly, the Agriculture Ministry said Wednesday.

If confirmed, the discovery in the Tula region, 125 miles south of Moscow, would mark the first time the lethal H5N1 strain decimating flocks in Asia has appeared in European Russia, west of the Ural Mountains. Tests will be conducted to verify whether it is the deadly Asian strain confirmed in Siberia earlier this year.

Samples from Macedonia were to be sent to a special EU lab in England for testing after said authorities started to cull 10,000 chickens in a small southern village as a precaution against bird flu.

"They are carrying out tests but cannot establish whether it's avian influenza at this time," said EU spokesman Philip Tod.

Slobodan Cokrevski, director of Macedonia's State Veterinarian Administration, said the suspect sample would probably to be sent to Britain for further analysis only on Thursday, "because the shipment requires additional security"

Meanwhile, China's government announced an epidemic of bird flu in the country's northern grasslands of Inner Mongolia. Some 2,600 birds have been found dead of bird flu there, the government said Wednesday as it reassured the public that the epidemic was under control.

The birds were found in a breeding facility in Tengjiaying, a village near Hohhot, the capital of the Inner Mongolia region, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

They were infected by the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu, Xinhua said, but did not give any details on what kind of birds they were or when they were found.

Health officials have begun prevention work and set up quarantine measures in the area, Xinhua said. Relevant areas are also being disinfected, it said without elaborating.

"The epidemic is effectively under control," the report said. "No new trouble spots have been found."

Amid increasing public concern the bird flu could mutate into a form that could infect humans and cause a pandemic, health officials said they will also hold an exercise simulating a flu pandemic by the end of the year to improve readiness. A smaller preparedness exercise was also held Wednesday to test emergency communication channels.

Tod also said the EU's executive arm would send experts to Greece to help identify the strain of bird flu detected there. Authorities began disinfecting a farm on a remote Aegean Sea island where a lone turkey was found to be infected with a strain of the disease.

At the same time, the 25-nation European Union is preparing to extend a ban on imports of pet birds and feathers from Siberia because of the outbreak of bird flu there.

EU health ministers open a two-day informal meeting outside of London on Thursday to assess the risk of a possible flu pandemic and the necessary preparations.

Hundreds of birds have died in a region south of Moscow, Russian media reported Wednesday, raising fears of a new outbreak of bird flu in Russia. At least 247 chickens, geese and ducks died between Friday and Monday on a farm in the village of Yandovka due to a severe viral infection, Vremya Novostei newspaper reported. If confirmed as bird flu, the discovery in the Tula region, about 125 miles south of Moscow, would mark the first time that the deadly virus has appeared west of the Ural Mountains.

In Macedonia, birds were being culled in Mogila, a village outside the southern city of Bitola, following an outbreak of Newcastle Disease ? a common and contagious poultry ailment ? which has already killed hundreds of chickens. The cull was ordered after one of the chickens displayed irregular symptoms, and a sample was sent to Britain to test for bird flu.

Tests have confirmed the deadly H5N1 bird flu strain in a second location in Romania's eastern Danube Delta region, a government official said Wednesday. The tests were carried out at an international expert laboratory in Britain where most of the suspected samples from around Europe are being sent for verification. Romanian authorities have killed all farm birds in the area and finished disinfecting the areas, including people's houses and yards.

A second German state on Wednesday ordered farmers to keep their poultry indoors and called on the rest of the country to follow suit. Saarland, a small region on the border with France, will require that birds be moved inside starting Saturday, state health minister Josef Hecken said. Saarland followed the example of Bavaria, where a similar order came into force Wednesday.

Authorities disinfected a farm on a remote Aegean Sea island where a lone turkey suffered bird flu, as neighboring countries stepped up precautions against the virus. Health Minister Nikitas Kaklamanis supervised the disinfection Wednesday on the island of Oinouses.

Croatia's Agriculture Ministry said Wednesday that tests on more than 50 dead birds across the country have failed to detect bird flu. Laboratory checks on wild and domestic birds of different species during the last two weeks showed no indication of the deadly virus, the government report said. Croatia has been on high alert for the disease after cases were confirmed in Romania and Turkey.

France has taken maximum precautions to defend against a possible bird flu outbreak, the agriculture minister said Wednesday, insisting French poultry remains safe to eat. "I love chicken," Dominique Bussereau told reporters after a weekly Cabinet meeting. "We are at a maximum of veterinary precaution in France ... Consumers of poultry have nothing to fear."

The British government on Wednesday stepped up its preparedness for a possible flu pandemic and said it was inviting manufacturers to tender for a contract to supply a vaccine once the pandemic strain is known. Publishing its updated contingency plan, the Department of Health said it would need approximately 120 million doses to be available as soon as possible.

Understanding Avian Influenza