Low Pathogenic Bird
Flu Found In Italy
From Patricia Doyle, PhD
From ProMED-mail Sofia News Agency 11-10-5
Italian authorities reported the 1st confirmed case of bird flu in the country. The finding was made after testing more than 1000 wild birds, the Health Ministry said in a statement adding that it's a "low pathogenic"' version that isn't life-threatening.
A wild duck bearing the H5N1 virus was found [the virus found or the duck? in case the duck - was it hunted? found sick? dead? - Mod.AS] at a testing center in Padua, Italy, the ministry said.
The virus found "is genetically very similar to the one found in wild European water fowl and therefore is of no threat to public health."
Health Minister Francesco Storace has urged Italians not to exaggerate the threat of the virus, while at the same time promising greater controls on the food supply.
Experts on Thursday sought to ease alarm over the detection of bird flu in a wild duck, saying the strain of virus was much weaker than that found in Asia and posed no threat to public health.
"Although the codename is the same one used to denote the Asian virus, the form here is completely different," said experts at the bird flu testing lab in Lagnaro near Padua .
On Wednesday [9 Nov 2005], the lab said that a migratory wild duck had tested positive for H5N1, the codename used for the deadly strain of bird flu virus which has caused more than 60 deaths in Asia.
But the lab stressed on Thursday that "this strain has a lower pathogenic level and is therefore less aggressive than the Asian form. Its presence in European water fowl is normal."
It said the strain found in the wild duck was closely related to other weak forms of H5 bird virus that have long been present in migratory birds in Europe, particularly in Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands.
"This does not change the current situation in Italy as regards to bird flu," the lab concluded.
Professor Donato Greco, the head of the Health Ministry's centre for disease control, also said that "this is a far less virulent strain of bird flu virus and one which has nothing to do with the one circulating in the Far East."
But Italy's anti-hunting lobby immediately called for a ban on wild bird hunting. A spokesman for the lobby, Andrea Zanoni, said that "it's vital that hunting be stopped. Dozens of Asian and European regions have taken this responsible decision after detecting the 1st cases of bird flu on their territory."
"We must avoid hunters and their dogs coming into contact with the virus and in their turn, becoming potential vehicles for the spread of H5N1," Zanoni said .
He noted that there were some 60 000 hunters in the region of Veneto surrounding Padua with 10 000 specialising in duck hunting around Padua, Venice and Rovigo. But Veneto regional health councillor, Flavio Tosi, dismissed the campaigners' concerns .
"This is groundless alarmism. Nothing will change with regard to hunting," he said. "We must remember that there have been very few cases of the virus passing from animals to humans in Asia despite the region's population density and poor hygienic conditions. A bird flu pandemic is about as likely as an asteroid hitting the earth," Tosi said .
A top Italian veterinary researcher said in October 2005 that H5N1 was probably already present in Italy but posed no threat to humans because it was a milder strain than the one found in Asia.
Mauro Delogu of Bologna University's Department of Veterinary Public Health said that "at the moment, the risk to humans is zero. The ability of the virus to pass from wild animals to humans has not been completely proven."
He stressed that the alarm in Italy was unwarranted, arguing that the real problem was to prevent H5N1 passing from wild birds to domestic ones. "Then it could turn into a more aggressive virus," Delogu said.
Concern over bird flu has increased in Europe after H5N1 spread to European Russia, Turkey, Croatia and Romania through migratory birds.
Italy has banned imports of live poultry, game birds and poultry products from Croatia, Romania and other Balkan states. It has also begun inspecting poultry farms and testing captured migratory birds as well as temporarily banning street poultry markets on national soil.
Meanwhile, farmers have been staging protests over the fall in poultry sales, saying the industry had been "brought to its knees" by the bird flu scare.
The term "duck" is a general one, applicable to various wild or domesticated swimming birds of the family Anatidae, characteristically having a broad, flat bill, short legs, and webbed feet. A precise identification of the bird from Veneto (precise location not given) reportedly found infected with a LPAI H5N1 strain will help. It will also help to know if the bird was hunted and about its clinical condition.
Ornithological information about affected wild birds is of crucial value. Fortunately, some of our requests for such data are fruitful; the following item is one of them. - Mod.AS.
Patricia A. Doyle, PhD Please visit my "Emerging Diseases" message board at:
Zhan le Devlesa tai sastimasa
Go with God and in Good Health



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