Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Bird flu outbreak in Romania, EU's first in a year

BUCHAREST (AFP) – The first outbreak of the deadly H5N1 bird flu in Europe for a year has been identified in a backyard poultry farm inRomania, the European Commission said Tuesday.

The outbreak, in Tulcea county, close to the Ukrainian border, was discovered on Monday and prompted immediate security measures, the EU's executive arm said in a statement.

These include the killing of all poultry in the infected farm and the establishment of a three kilometre (two mile) protection zone and a wider "surveillance zone" around the farm with strict controls on movements in or out.

"The presence of the virus was confirmed on two hens that were found dead on a small private farm," Raul Balogh, spokesman of the Romanian Sanitary and Veterinary Authority, told AFP.

"No other case has been discovered since," he added.

Balogh said tests are regularly conducted on poultry in the Danube delta, given the proximity of migratory birds, considered to be carriers of the virus.

Romania was hit by massive bird flu outbreaks in 2005 and 2006, when more than a million poultry were slaughtered.

Avian influenza or "bird flu" is a highly contagious viral disease which primarily affects birds, but on rare occasions can also be contracted by humans and other mammals.

The strain of avian influenza which is currently causing concern is the highly pathogenic H5N1 which has affected many countries worldwide, including parts of Asia, Africa and Europe.

H5N1 can spread rapidly through poultry flocks and wild birds are considered to be contributing to its spread around the globe. It does not jump easily from birds to humans.

However around 290 people have died of the human form of avian flu since 2003, according to the World Health Organisation.

The Romanian case is the first detection of the highly avian influenza H5N1 in the European Union in a year.

The last case, confirmed in March 2009, was discovered in a wild duck shot during a hunt near Starnberg, in Bavaria, southern Germany.

On Sunday at least 117,000 chickens were destroyed in northern Bangladesh after an avian flu outbreak on one of the country's largest poultry farms.

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