Russian Bird Flu Situation
Worsening - Top Veterinarian

(AFP) -- Bird flu is posing a growing challenge in Russia, the chief veterinarian said, noting that twice as many farm fowl had been culled or died so far this year [2006] compared with all of 2005.
"Last year [2005] we lost 662 000 heads of poultry, which died or were slaughtered. This year (so far) the figure is 1.3 million poultry," Sergei Dankvert told a press briefing on the sidelines of a veterinarians' conference.
"This year [2006], the situation is more difficult (and) will depend on steps taken in the regions," said Dankert, who heads the Russian Federal Veterinary Control Service.
He said poultry needed to be protected from contact with wild birds, which would reduce the risk of contamination by 50 percent, and he urged further vaccinations.
"Last year [2005], the virus affected 62 towns in 10 Russian regions, while since the start of 2006, already 56 towns in 9 regions have been affected," he said.
In 16 of the towns, infected birds have been slaughtered, but the virus is still present in the other 40, Dankvert said.
Farms were affected in the southern regions of Stavropol, Krasnodar and Dagestan, where "health and veterinary rules were not respected," he said.
The virus had also penetrated factory farming in Russia for the 1st time this year [2006]. Hitherto, it had been found only in private holdings.
The official said he did not foresee problems over vaccines this year [2006]. "We are not talking of general vaccination but vaccination in particularly endangered regions," he said.
"The panic has been so great that the number of requests for vaccines to be sent to regions has begun to grow in geometric progression," Dankvert added.
32 million vaccine [doses] would be produced in Russia by the end of this month [March 2006], 42 million in April 2006 and 70 million in May 2006 with the aim of a production peak of 1.2 billion annually, he noted.
Demand on the Russian poultry market dropped by 20-25 percent between last November [2005] and this month [March 2006] because of the bird flu scare, Galina Bobyleva, head of the poultry producers' union, was quoted by the Ria Novosti agency as saying.



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