"Confirmation that highly pathogenic avian influenza has been found in Turkey and that avian influenza is now also in Romania is of concern. It shows that there is a risk to the UK," Debby Reynolds, chief vet at the UK's Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, told a news conference.

"We will now carry out an assessment immediately to determine what the risk is and whether any further measures need to be taken," she added. 

Turkey faces no general public health threat following last week's outbreak of avian influenza on a farm near the Aegean Sea, the Health Ministry has said.

 
 
Ministry official Turan Buzgan also told a televised news conference on Thursday that Turkey had taken all necessary measures against a possible flu epidemic.

He was speaking shortly after EU Health and Consumer Protection chief Markos Kyprianou said the strain of bird flu found in Turkey had been identified as the same H5N1 virus that has killed more than 60 people in Asia since 2003.

EU ban

"We have received now confirmation that the virus found in Turkey is avian flu H5N1 high pathogenic virus," EU Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner Markos Kyprianou said on Thursday.

He added that test results on the outbreak in Turkey indicated "a direct relationship with viruses recently found in Russia, Mongolia and China".

"We have completed 95% of the culling"

Selahattin Kokcu,
local farm official, Kiziksa

The EU slapped a ban on live bird imports on Turkey on Monday after the bird flu outbreak there.

It also took a similar measure on Thursday against Romania after the presence of bird flu was confirmed there, although further tests are under way to required to determine if that is also the H5N1 strain.

Virulent form

While avian influenza primarily affects birds, the H5N1 strain has killed more than 60 people in Southeast Asia since 2003.

Scientists have warned that millions of people around the world could die if that virulent form of the virus crosses with human flu strains to become highly contagious among people.

Thursday's announcement means the H5N1 strain has now reached the frontiers of the EU.

Turkish officials said earlier on Thursday they had nearly completed a slaughter of winged animals in a northwestern village if Kiziksa following the outbreak. 
 

"We have completed 95% of the culling," Selahattin Kokcu, the local farm official in Kiziksa where the first case of bird flu was confirmed at the weekend, told AFP.

Turkey says it has completed a
slaughter of birds in a village

Turkey says no human cases have been reported so far, and the Health Ministry has ordered fresh stocks of the anti-influenza drug Tamiflu in a bid to prevent a flu pandemic, a senior official said in remarks published in a Turkish newspaper on Thursday.

Virus hits Iran

Meanwhile, Iran's veterinary authorities have reported a large number of deaths among wild ducks, but the cause of the mortality is as yet unknown, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) said on Thursday.

The OIE, the paramount authority for veterinary health, said on its website that 3673 wild ducks had died at Poldasht, in West Azerbaijan province.

The phenomenon began on 2 October, according to the information received from the Iran Veterinary Organisation, a branch of the Agriculture Ministry, on Wednesday.

"No pathological agent has been identified yet. No post-mortem lesions are seen in dead birds; weakness and death are the only evidences," the Iranian report said.

The Iranian authorities have quarantined the area and are carrying out disinfection measures, the OIE said, adding it had asked Iran for further information.