Bird Flu Alarm

2006-04-07-First British case of deadly bird flu strain confirmed

Understanding Avian Influenza

2006-04-07-First British case of deadly bird flu strain confirmed

The first British case of the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu was confirmed Thursday, a sign that containment measures aren't preventing the spread of the disease.

The virus will inevitably enter North America, most likely from birds flying across the Bering Strait into Alaska, said John McConnell, editor of The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal. "It is spreading all over the world, and at this point, there isn't much we can do about it," he said. The trade of poultry also is spreading the virus ? evident by an outbreak in Nigeria, McConnell said.

Also Thursday, the virus was confirmed in domestic fowl in the eastern German state of Saxony. The World Health Organization announced that a teenager in Egypt and a boy in Cambodia had died from the human form of avian influenza. The death toll since 2003 is 109, mostly in Southeast Asia.

Parts of Scotland were in lockdown Thursday after the latest case of the H5N1 strain was discovered in a dead swan in Cellardyke, a picturesque coastal village about 30 miles northeast of the Scottish capital, Edinburgh. Britain is the 14th country in the 25-nation European Union to report cases of the virus.

The detection of the avian flu virus in a wild bird does not signal an increased risk to human health, nor does it mean it will spread into domestic poultry. In developed countries, most poultry are raised under roofs and monitored for signs of disease. Nearly all human cases have followed close contact with infected chickens, turkeys or ducks.

The Scottish government has set up a 1,553-square-mile protection zone, an area containing 3.1 million poultry birds, 260,000 of which are free-range.

Farmers have been ordered to keep their birds indoors or take measures to separate poultry from wild birds, chief veterinary officer Charles Milne said. The movement of poultry, eggs and poultry products has been restricted, and officials are stepping up testing of poultry.

British poultry farmers have been anti-cipating the arrival of H5N1 and have quickly enacted measures to reduce the threat of the virus to their flocks, said Jeremy Blackburn, executive officer of the London-based British Poultry Council. "We've got to remember that this is one wild bird. British poultry and poultry products remain safe to eat," he said.

Understanding Avian Influenza