More nations confirm bird flu cases

Health workers are mobilising to contain a marked resurgence of the H5N1 influenza virus, with 15 more countries in February alone reporting new cases of bird flu.

    Bird flu has now spread into many European countries

    Hungary, Slovakia and Malaysia are the latest countries to discover cases.

    Germany has reported another 22 cases, bringing the total number of cases of the virus found in wild birds there to 103, mainly on the island of Ruegen, a laboratory report says.

    Test results from the European Union's laboratory had confirmed that three dead swans found in early February in Hungary were infected with the H5N1 strain, a government spokesman said on Tuesday.

    They were Hungary's first confirmed cases of H5N1.


    In Slovakia, initial tests showed the virus strain in a wild falcon and a grebe, the first two cases of the virus found in the country, Agriculture Minister Zsolt Simon said on Tuesday.

    "Two samples contained the H5 virus," Simon told a news conference.

    Initial tests showed the strain in
    two wild birds in Slovakia

    Simon said the National Reference Laboratory was now testing the samples for the H5N1 strain of bird flu that was deadly to humans and the results should be available on Friday.

    The dead grebe was found near the Danube river outside the capital Bratislava, on land owned by oil refiner Slovnaft, Simon said.

    The falcon was found in Gabcikovo, on the river Danube, about 60km southeast of the capital.
    Simon said a 3km quarantine area had been set up around the sites where the dead birds were found, and no poultry products could be shipped from those areas.

    The Agriculture Ministry had earlier ordered all bird breeding farms in Slovakia to keep their birds inside to prevent any contacts with wild birds.

    Also on Tuesday, a report from the Friedrich-Loeffler institute brought the total number of cases of the deadly H5N1 virus found in wild birds in Germany to 103, primarily on the northern island of Ruegen.

    Tests have confirmed another 22 cases of bird flu there.

    A cull of poultry has been ordered in the area, and troops have been deployed to help clear away dead birds.

    So far, no domestic birds or humans have been diagnosed with the virus in Germany.

    Bird flu was first confirmed on the island last week, and infected wild birds have also now been found on the mainland.


    Health workers in western India were wrapping up a massive slaughter of chickens on Tuesday to contain the virus.

    More than half a million birds have been killed in India's Navapur district since the virus was found in samples from about 30,000 dead chickens.

    The government plans to cull a total of 700,000 birds within a 3km radius of the outbreak in the state of Maharashtra.

    Indian poultry farm owners are
    concerned about their livelihoof

    While the culling may halt the spread of the disease, local farmers were distraught over their losses and wondering how they would survive.
    "It is a question of livelihood for 5000 families," said Ghulam Vohra, a member of a Navapur poultry farmers' association, after his 30,000 birds were killed.

    "We are all jobless."

    On Monday, Vilasrao Deshmukh, Maharashtra's chief minister, ordered 48 poultry farms around Navapur, more than 400km northeast of Bombay, to be emptied and said they would remain shut for three months.

    The government has offered farmers compensation of 40 rupees ($0.90) per bird.

    Health workers in Nepal scoured farms in the south to check for symptoms of bird flu after the outbreak in India.

    Dhanraj Ratala, director of the department of Animal Health, said officials had been posted at border checkpoints to help stop the illegal smuggling of chickens across their shared border.


    Indonesia geared up to scour its capital to test thousands of chickens for the illness.

    Jakarta is gearing up to test
    thousands of chickens

    The head of Jakarta's Animal Husbandry Department, Edi Sutiarto said on Tuesday that authorities would test thousands of chickens for the virus in the capital and slaughter all birds living within one kilometre of any outbreak.
    Officials will pay the equivalent of $1 for each chicken they kill during the three-day campaign that starts on Friday. 

    Most of Indonesia's 19 bird flu victims lived in Jakarta.

    Hong Kong

    In Hong Kong, meanwhile, the government said tests had confirmed that a dead magpie found near an urban flower market was infected with the H5N1 strain, the 10th bird killed by the disease in recent weeks.

    The government has confirmed the virus in 10 carcasses of dead wild birds and chickens since January. No human cases have been reported.

    Bird flu first appeared in Hong Kong in 1997, when the disease jumped to humans and killed six people.


    China's Ministry of Agriculture has said on Tuesday that regions in the country's north that lie along a major migration path for wild birds must be on high alert for birds carrying the virus from Europe and elsewhere as the northern hemisphere spring approaches.

    Mass culling takes place in most
    affected countries 

    The virus killed thousands of bar-headed geese in mid-2005 at a nature reserve popular with dozens of species of wild birds in China's western Qinghai province.

    This has prompted warnings that they could spread the illness when they migrated to Southeast Asia and Russia.

    There are fears the virus could return as wild birds make another seasonal migration back to China.


    Finally, Malaysia reported that 40 chickens died last week in the first cases for that country in more than a year.

    The Malaysian government said in a statement late on Monday that this past week's death of 40 chickens near Kuala Lumpur was an isolated case, and that there were no human deaths.

    All 110 chickens in the area, covering four hamlets, were subsequently culled, it said.

    Following are the countries that have reported outbreaks this month:

    Austria, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, India, Iran, Italy, Malaysia, Nigeria and Slovenia.

    The H5N1 virus has devastated poultry stocks and killed at least 91 people, mostly in Asia, since 2003, according to the World Health Organisation.

    Most human cases of the disease have been linked to contact with infected birds.

    But scientists fear the virus could mutate into a form that is easily transmitted between humans, sparking a pandemic.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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