Bird Flu Alarm

2006-03-10-Russia launches bird vaccinations

Understanding Avian Influenza

2006-03-10-Russia launches bird vaccinations

Russia has begun the mass vaccination of poultry to try to stop the spread of the lethal H5N1 bird flu virus.

Millions of vaccines have already been delivered to provinces in southern Russia - a region believed to be most vulnerable to the virus.

The virus is blamed for nearly a million poultry deaths in Russia.

France and the Netherlands have been given permission by the EU to vaccinate fowl against the virus - a policy some experts have criticised as dangerous.

Critics say the vaccine does not offer birds complete protection from the disease and could, in effect, mask its spread among flocks - raising the risk that it could ultimately infect humans.

They also point out it is highly expensive.

However, many farmers' associations and vets have called for an EU-wide vaccination policy.

Millions of birds and scores of people have died from the H5N1 virus.

The virus has so far only infected people who have come into direct contact with diseased fowl - but experts fear a mutant form of the virus may trigger a pandemic among humans.

'Fake vaccines'

The mass vaccination of Russian birds has already started in the southern republics of Dagestan and Kabardino-Balkaria, Russian TV reports.

The programme is initially focusing on delivering the vaccine to farms that are near ponds and waterways frequented by migratory birds.

Officials are quoted as saying the project will be completed by July.

The vaccine is being given free to domestic fowl.

Officials in the southern Krasnodar region have warned farmers against criminals who have reportedly been posing as vets and selling fake vaccines.

Several governments across Europe have urged farmers to confine their poultry indoors to reduce the risk of infection.

Understanding Avian Influenza