2006-02-15-Return of migrating birds could spread avian flu in EuropeUnderstanding Avian Influenza
2006-02-15-Return of migrating birds could spread avian flu in Europe
Europe faces a "real risk" that bird flu will spread as migrating birds return from Africa over the next few months, a senior UN official warned yesterday.
Samuel Jutzi, director of the animal production and health division of the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation, told a press conference at the organisation's Rome headquarters: "In view of the fact that the virus seems to be circulating quite widely in Africa where our migratory birds go to spend winter, we might say there is a risk for Europe in the coming spring."
Italy, which last weekend became the westernmost country in Europe to confirm the presence of the H5N1 strain of the disease, said a form of avian flu had been detected in two more dead swans in southern Italy.
The danger is that migrating birds could pass the disease to poultry, which in turn could infect human beings.
But Italy's chief veterinary officer, Romano Marabelli, said extensive tests had been carried out on poultry "and all the checks have so far proved negative".
Juan Lubroth, the UN agency's senior officer for infectious diseases, said the area of northern Nigeria in which the H5N1 strain had been confirmed, was a favourite wintering ground for birds from Europe. Restrictions had been imposed on the movement of livestock out of two states, Kaduna and Kano, but they were "not really holding", he said.
Concern focused on Nigeria after bird deaths at a commercial poultry farm near Kaduna. Checks on 20 farm workers had not detected signs of the disease but another 140 staff had not been located, officials said.
Iran yesterday became the latest country to report the discovery of birds with the H5N1 form of the disease, which can be fatal to humans.
In Austria, two dead swans in the south of the country were found to be infected with H5N1, the government's food safety agency announced yesterday. Samples from the birds were sent to the EU's lab in Weybridge, Surrey, for confirmation of the H5N1 strain, the ministry said.