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Britain conducts bird flu tests
The Suriname authorities have been trying to pinpoint where a parrot was captured before it was shipped to Britain and died of a pote
Last Modified: 22 Oct 2005 18:17 GMT
A bird flu strain has killed more than 60 people in southeast Asia
The Suriname authorities have been trying to pinpoint where a parrot was captured before it was shipped to Britain and died of a potentially dangerous strain of bird flu, the country's health minister said.

On Friday, the parrot was diagnosed in Britain with the strain, and British scientists were conducting more tests to determine whether the bird had the lethal strain of the disease that has killed more than 60 people in southeast Asia.

 

"We are currently trying to find out any information about this bird, its background and the shipment," said Surinamese Health Minister Celsius Waterberg. "As soon as they know the area where the bird was captured, authorities will go to that area to take more samples."

 

If the parrot was infected in Suriname, it would be the first confirmed case of potentially serious bird flu in the Western hemisphere. Milder forms that do not threaten people have been found in Colombia and Brazil.

 

The bird was part of a mixed consignment of parrots and other birds from the former Dutch colony and was being held in a quarantine unit in Britain, alongside a consignment of birds from Taiwan.

 

British officials said they were in contact with the authorities in Suriname and Taiwan to determine where the bird had contracted the virus.

 

No immediate plans

 

Officials from Suriname would meet on Monday to discuss the matter but had no immediate plans to deal with the issue on an emergency basis over the weekend, Waterberg said.

 

"I have no idea of what we will do, or what we can do, if the case is found to have come from Suriname, but we will do all that we can," he said.

 

"One doesn't really know where it was or went before or where it was hiding"

Alexander Mueller,
German junior agriculture minister

The parrot may have contracted the illness after it was shipped from Suriname, said Dr Winston Jesserun, a lawmaker and member of the parliamentary committee on health care.

 

Because of the British case, Germany said it would ask the European Union next week to ban all wild bird imports.

 

Junior Agriculture Minister Alexander Mueller said the case showed that the European Union's ban on imports from countries that had bird flu was not tight enough.

 

"One doesn't really know where it was or went before or where it was hiding," Mueller said.

 

Bird flu type

 

The bird had the H5 strain of the virus, said Debby Reynolds, the British Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs' chief veterinarian.

 

It was not immediately known whether the bird had the H5N1 strain, which has devastated poultry stocks across Asia and killed 60 people in the past two years, mostly poultry farmers directly infected by birds.

 

Medical authorities know that the bird had a highly pathogenic form of the disease, but official confirmation of the N-type had not been made, according to Reynolds.

 

China to shut borders

 

China will close its borders if it finds a single case of human-to-human transmission of bird flu there, a Hong Kong newspaper reported on Saturday, while a defiant Taiwan said it would copy a patented anti-viral drug.

 

Saving lives would be Beijing's top priority in efforts to contain a possible outbreak of bird flu, even if it meant slowing the economy, Huang Jiefu, a vice-minister of health, was quoted as saying by the South China Morning Post.

 

China will shut its borders if
human-to-human bird flu is found

The World Bank said that while prevention measures would cost a lot, the economic damage from a pandemic would be far worse.

 

Huang told health officials from China, Hong Kong and Macau on Friday that any suspected human case would be quarantined.

 

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said the deadly H5N1 strain is endemic in poultry in China and across much of Asia, and it may be a matter of time before it develops the ability to pass easily from human to human.

 

Croatian cull

 

The Croatian authorities on Saturday started culling all poultry around a fish pond where the country's first bird flu case was confirmed, and police sealed off the area.

 

The officials said 10,000 birds in about 1000 rural households would be killed in the next few days.

Source:
Agencies
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