- BRUSSELS, Belgium (Reuters)
-- Turkey has the type of bird flu dangerous to humans and European authorities
are working on the assumption that cases discovered in Romania are of the
same strain, the European Union's health chief said on Thursday.
- His comments were the first official confirmation that
the potentially lethal virus, which has killed more than 60 people in Asia
since 2003, has now reached southeastern Europe.
- "The virus found in Turkey is avian flu H5N1 high
pathogenic virus," EU Health and Consumer Protection chief Markos
Kyprianou told a news conference.
- EU countries should be ready for a potential flu pandemic
and should stockpile anti-viral drugs, he said.
- He said the EU executive did not yet know for sure whether
the cases found in Romania were of the same virulent strain but they were
assuming it was, pending final tests.
- EU experts on avian influenza and migratory birds will
hold an emergency meeting on Friday.
- Kyprianou said migratory birds could transmit the virus.
- The Commission would advise on precautions to be taken
by people travelling to Romania, Turkey and other countries hit by the
outbreak such as avoiding farms, he said.
- Bird flu was discovered at a Turkish farm near the Aegean
and Marmara seas.
- The executive European Commission said it was considering
establishing a 1-billion-euro ($1.2 billion) "solidarity fund"
to help fund the use of anti-virals in the event of a pandemic.
- "What is important is that it does become a priority
for all member states and that they make an investment for preparing for
this event," Markos Kyprianou told a news conference.
- The H5N1 bird flu strain has killed over 60 people in
Asia since 2003. Kyprianou said a case discovered in Turkey was of this
most virulent type and the EU executive was assuming that another case
found in Romania was of the same kind, pending final tests.
- Imports banned
- Romania also said it had detected bird flu in three ducks
that died last week although it was unclear whether it was the same deadly
H5N1 strain that that has forced the slaughter of millions of birds.
- The European Union on Thursday banned the import of live
birds, poultry meat and feathers from Romania after officials there confirmed
positive tests for the presence of bird flu.
- An emergency meeting of EU veterinary experts was to
be held later Thursday to try to determine which strain of flu had been
- The samples, taken from dead birds in Romania's Danube
Delta, are being sent to Britain to identify the specific strain.
- "We hope it's a low intensity virus," said
Agriculture Minister Gheorghe Flutur. "We are continuing measures
to isolate the affected area."
- Experts fear H5N1 could mutate into a virus which spreads
easily among humans, creating a pandemic that could kill tens of millions
- Romania's chief veterinarian Ion Agafitei told Reuters
scientists detected the avian influenza virus in samples taken from three
ducks which died last week in the Danube delta.
- The samples will be sent to a British laboratory, which
investigated the bird flu strains detected in Turkey. It could take up
to two days to establish the type of virus in Romania, British scientist
Ruth Manvell said.
- The European Commission said its experts had confirmed
the Romanian findings. "Further tests are necessary to ascertain if
the virus in question is the H5N1 strain," it said in a statement.
- The Danube delta contains Europe's largest wetlands and
is a major migratory area for wild birds coming from Russia, Scandinavia,
Poland and Germany. The birds mainly move to warmer areas in North Africa
including the Nile delta for winter.
- Thousands of birds culled
- Turkey detected bird flu last Saturday after 2,000 birds
died on a farm near the Aegean Sea. Thousands of birds were culled to prevent
the virus from spreading and quarantine zones were imposed.
- Officials in Romania also announced plans to slaughter
thousands of birds to prevent the disease from spreading.
- "We have so far culled 3,000 poultry and we will
continue to do so at a rapid pace," said Mihai Carciumaru, the mayor
of Ceamurlia de Jos in the Danube delta, where the three infected ducks
were found last week.
- "Today, we need to cull 15,000 more birds to contain
the disease," he told Reuters. The mayor also said authorities had
sealed off the village.
- Bird flu began sweeping through Thai poultry flocks in
late 2003, all but wiping out markets for what was then the world's fourth
largest poultry exporter.
- The Paris-based World Organization for Animal Health
also said on Thursday that 3,673 wild waterfowl had died in Iran, but the
cause was unclear.
- "No pathological agent has been identified yet,"
it said on its Web site, citing a report from Iran's chief veterinary officer.
"No post-mortem lesions are seen in the dead birds; weakness and death
are the only evidence."
- In Iran, a spokesman for the veterinary authority said
no signs of bird flu had been discovered.
- "We,ve done different tests on these birds but we
haven't found anything. We don't know the reason," spokesman Behrouz
Yasemi said. "We have quarantined the area."
- Copyright 2005 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.