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News clippings about Bird Flu in August 2005.


Poland says EU should help Russia fight bird flu.

Poland called on the European Union to help Russia stop the spread of deadly bird flu, which Polish veterinary services said on Tuesday could be brought to the country by wild birds within weeks.

Fears of a global outbreak of the highly pathogenic strain of bird flu have grown after the virus spread from Asia into eastern Russia and Kazakhstan. Health experts fear it could mutate into a form that spreads from person to person. The H5N1 strain which is potentially dangerous to humans, has been found in six Russian regions in Siberia and the Urals, causing the deaths of nearly 14,000 wild and domestic fowl. "Poland wants the EU to talk with Russia about how the whole EU can help Russia - including financial assistance - to prevent the spread of bird flu on its territory," Polish Interior Minister Ryszard Kalisz told a news conference. Kalisz and other officials said Poland was drawing up plans including the ordering of anti viral drugs. Veterinarian inspectors have recommended that farmers feed poultry indoors. Janusz Zwiazek, Poland's deputy chief veterinarian, said that based on migratory patterns he believed wild birds could bring the disease to Poland as soon as two weeks' time. Bird flu has killed more than 60 people in Asia since 2003 and led to the slaughter of millions of birds. The EU has said it believes there is only a remote or low chance of the virus striking the bloc, but other members including France and the Netherlands have taken precautions against a potential outbreak.

Experts see Alaska as US front against bird flu

Bird experts working in some of the most remote areas of Alaska have begun checking migrating birds for avian influenza to see if they are spreading the feared virus out of Asia.

A team heads off later this week for the Alaskan Peninsula to test Steller's eiders, a type of duck, for the virus, U.S. Geological Survey experts said. Other teams have already begun testing geese and ducks in other refuges, taking advantage of regular ecological studies to test birds migrating from Asia for the H5N1 virus. "We think that Alaska is likely to be the front line," said Hon Ip, a virologist at the USGS National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wisconsin. Other states are vulnerable, too, he said. "There are birds that fly directly across the Pacific from Southeast Asia to our western states like California, Oregon and Washington," Ip added in a telephone interview. The H5N1 avian influenza virus, which re-emerged in China in 2003, has caused the death or destruction of more than 100 million birds across Asia, from Japan to Russia's Siberia. Migrating birds in China and Mongolia have been found to be infected with the virus. So far it has killed more than 50 people, although it does not easily infect humans. Experts fear it will eventually acquire the ability to spread easily from person to person and cause a global pandemic of exceptionally deadly influenza.No one is sure how it is spreading, but migrating birds are a prime suspect. Officials fear birds such as ducks and geese could bring the virus to Western Europe, Africa and the Middle East over coming months.The USGS wants to help keep an eye out for it in North America."We also worry that birds will stop off in some of the U.S. territories in the Pacific like Guam, and Hawaii," Ip said. He is especially concerned about endangered species of birds. PIGGYBACKED RESEARCH So the USGS and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have piggybacked avian influenza surveys onto already scheduled visits to examine certain species, band them and track their movements. "We have chosen sites and species of birds that we think are the most likely ones that contact birds over in the Russian Siberian side that have the potential to migrate and make contact with birds in North America," Ip said. Dirk Derksen, a wildlife biologist at USGS in Anchorage, said teams have already sampled a sea goose species called the Pacific Black Brant in northern Alaska's national petroleum reserve and Emperor geese in western Alaska's Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge. Biologists and their helpers, in some cases Eskimo youth from nearby villages, catch the birds, which are helpless while molting. They put a leg band on them and while at it flip them over to take a swab from the cloaca to see if the birds are carrying virus in their feces. These samples are sent to Ip's lab in Madison for testing. "There is no evidence at all of any disease in any of the species that we sampled here," Derksen said in a telephone interview. Experts say the key to spreading influenza would be healthy birds that are not sickened by the virus. If the virus kills an animal quickly, it is less likely to spread it. Derksen said the teams are also scheduled to check ducks called Northern pintails on the Cook Inlet in south central Alaska near Anchorage. "They breed across North America and they breed across Asia and there is a demonstrated link between pintails that have been marked in California and a migration across the Bering strait to eastern Russia," Derksen said. Other species now being sampled include shore birds called bar-tailed godwits and sharp-tailed sandpipers.

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Dutch order on avian flu may breach EU rules.

Holland's efforts to shield its poultry industry from Asian bird flu, including moving all free-range flocks indoors, may have broken European Union law.

The order may flout EU member states' transfer of the right to impose laws in areas such as animal welfare to the European Commission.

The possible breach emerged as news came yesterday of a suspected bird flu case in a gull found in Oulu in northern Finland.

Though the EU is on alert for signs of the virulent H5N1 strain of avian influenza, which has spread westwards from China to Russia, there are many strains of the virus.

Final results from tests on the gull will not be known for three weeks, the Finnish agriculture ministry said.

Commission sources played down the find, saying mild forms of avian flu were common in wild birds.

Holland's tough precautions against bird flu are now being examined by EC lawyers to see whether they breached EU procedures. It is up to the commission to propose a response to any animal health crisis, which is then put to a committee of experts from all 25 members states and EU institutions for approval.

But this week the Dutch agriculture ministry ordered all birds to be kept indoors on the advice of its scientists.

Commission lawyers are also examining whether Holland's poultry flocks can now retain their free-range status.

EU free-range egg directives allow birds to be kept indoors temporarily in a health emergency. But lawyers are now studying what "temporary" means.

Prof Albert Osterhaus, a leading Dutch virologist, defended Holland's action. "The first migratory birds are already arriving and we cannot exclude that some of them may have come from affected areas," he said. "I am convinced we did the right thing."

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Sweden concerned over avian flu in Finland.

The Swedish Board of Agricultureis calling on fowl breeders here to be extra attentive following the apparent discovery of avian influenza in Finland, Radio Swedenreported on Monday.

There's concern that migratory birds from Russia might carry the disease into Western Europe, and There are around 70 major free range poultry farms here.

In a press release, the Swedish Board of Agriculture said the risk of infection from migratory birds is low, and Sweden is following the European Union decision to allow poultry to remain outdoors, with a recommendation for increased monitoring.

Bird flu damage nearly 38 million rubles

Bird flu damage in Russia is preliminarily estimated at nearly 38 million rubles, a source in the Emergency Situations Ministry told Interfax on Monday.

"Epizootic damages are preliminarily estimated at over 37.98 million rubles, excluding the spending on preventive measures and quarantine," the ministry's press service said.

There were no bird flu deaths in Russia on Sunday, the ministry said.

The total bird flu death toll has exceeded 11,000, and farmers have had to slaughter another 138,000 birds.

German scientists cut bird-flu test time to hours

German scientists said Friday they have developed a laboratory test for bird flu that reduces from days to hours the amount of time needed to detect the H5N1 virus in human patients.

Uwe Gerd Liebert of the University of Leipzig said the test would be available in about six weeks. Final experiments with the microbiological test were continuing and it has not yet been submitted for regulatory approval.

There has been growing alarm in Europe this month over the westwards spread of the H5N1 virus in poultry from Central Asia. The disease can infect and kill people.

Professor Liebert, who heads the university's virology institute, said it currently took laboratories several days to find H5N1 in human samples.

He said other German virology centres had also been working on rapid tests and were making similar progress to that in Leipzig.

The Leipzig team is also developing a test to check for an immune reaction to the H5N1 virus. This would show if people had caught the virus in the past and had recovered from the infection.

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Bird flu found in another Siberian province

The bird flu virus which has swept six Russian regions has been found in a wild duck in another Siberian province, officials said on Wednesday, but the agriculture minister said that its spread had been curbed.

The government of the Altai Republic said samples taken from the bird shot on Aug. 13 indicated the presence of bird flu virus "of the fifth type". Its statement did not say whether the strain was of the H5N1 subtype which is potentially lethal to humans and has killed at least 50 people in Asia since 2003. The mountainous Altai Republic borders Kazakhstan, Mongolia, and the separate Altai region, one of six Russian regions where the bird flu virus had been officially confirmed so far. Officials said the local veterinary service would inspect all farms close to where the duck was shot and restrict contacts between wild and domestic fowl. Agriculture Minister Alexei Gordeyev was quoted as saying on Wednesday that the spread of bird flu had been curbed. "Touch wood, we see that the situation is getting calmer, the disease has been localised," Interfax news agency quoted Gordeyev as saying. He said that bird flu had been restricted to small private farms and had not affected big industrial bird farms, which were taking precautions against the virus. Russia has culled 129,756 birds to prevent the spread of the virus since July 21. Another 11,725 birds died of the virus, including 10 in the last 24 hours, the Emergencies Ministry said in a report on Wednesday. No case of human infection with the H5N1 virus has been discovered in Russia so far. The Federal Consumers' Rights and Welfare Service said it had lifted quarantine from 12 locations in five regions including one in the Caspian province of Kalmykia where a reported case of bird flu was not confirmed. Kazakhstan's Agriculture Ministry said on Tuesday that a bird flu outbreak in seven northern villages had been confirmed to be dangerous to humans and the west of the sprawling country was under threat from the disease.

Mongolia reported earlier this month that dozens of wild fowl had died of bird flu in a province bordering Siberia.

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EC says bird flu under control in Russia

The European Commission says Russian veterinary services have the bird flu virus under control.

"We are observing the situation and it may be said that there are no grounds for panic," an EC spokesperson said.

The source said the EU's August 12 ban on importing live poultry from Russia and Kazakhstan was a sufficiently protective measure.

"The analysis we conducted showed that the risk of bird flu spreading to EU countries is considerably low," the spokesperson said, adding that Brussels was satisfied with the information on the problem that Russian veterinary authorities had provided.

Outbreaks of bird flu have been discovered in seven constituent members of the Russian Federation: five in Siberia (Altai, Novosibirsk, Omsk, Tyumen and Kurgan), one in the South Urals (Chelyabinsk) and another in the Southern Federal District (Kalmykia).

The source said not all EU members shared the Netherlands' opinion that poultry must be isolated to keep them from contracting the deadly virus.

Representatives of EU states' veterinary services will discuss the bird flu situation and antiviral measures in Brussels August 25.

Britain lets poultry run free despite the threat of bird flu

MINISTERS were under pressure last night to lock up British poultry flocks against the threat of avian flu, as European countries ordered that birds be be kept inside to protect against infection.

More than five million free-range chickens in the Netherlands were confined indoors yesterday because of fears that wild birds migrating from Russia to Europe would spread the lethal H5N1 virus westwards. German farms have been told to take similar precautions by September 15.

However, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said that Britain had no plans to follow suit, despite growing concern among farmers and scientists that chickens, ducks and turkeys could be at risk.

Scientists who study bird flu described the Dutch measures as wise, and urged the Government to consider carefully whether similar steps should be taken in Britain.

“Overall, it’s better to take precautions beforehand than to stand there wringing your hands afterwards,” Professor John Oxford, of Queen Mary School of Medicine in London, said. “These birds do overfly Norfolk and other parts of the UK. It is not out of all possibility that we could be at risk.".

Professor Hugh Pennington, of Aberdeen University, said the Dutch measures were sensible. “One has to take precautionary measures when we think they’re appropriate,” he said. “There's no vaccine that can be given to the birds, there are no medicines we can use, so basically it’s a precautionary approach we have to take."

Defra said: “We don’t expect to give that kind of advice because the evidence as it is shows the risk to be low. We don’t think that is proportional to the risk. It is a contingency if the risk grows higher, but at the moment we are urging a high level of vigilance."

The Dutch and German moves were prompted by fears that migrating wildfowl from Russia could carry H5N1 flu with them. Confining poultry indoors would prevent mixing with wild birds.

Defra still rates the risk from migrating birds as low, though it accepts that the spread of the virus to southern Russia may have increased this risk. The National Farmers’ Union, which is meeting officials today to discuss the issue, said it would support any move to impose restrictions, although it was concerned at the effect on Britain’s free-range and organic sectors, which are much greater than in the Netherlands.

Charles Bourns, chairman of the union’s poultry board, said the Government should guarantee free-range status for farmers who are forced to bring their flocks inside through no fault of their own, or provide financial compensation.

“As the disease gets closer to us, we may need to take action like this and we would be fully supportive of that,” he said. “The costs of avian influenza striking here just don’t bear thinking about. But if we have to bring free-range birds in during the migration season, will they be allowed free-range status in the egg industry.

“We are talking about 20 to 30 per cent of the flock, and a 20p premium per dozen eggs, even more for organic status. I think consumers would understand why eggs sold as free-range aren’t being raised in the normal fashion, but we need help to maintain that status."

The Dutch move will require less than 5 per cent of the total flock of 105 million to move indoors.

In the UK, however, about 33 per cent of the UK laying flock of 30 million is free-range and would have to be moved inside, along with about 2 to 3 per cent of the 150 million broiler chickens raised for meat.

To be considered free-range, at least an acre of field must be provided per 400 chickens, and the birds must have access to it during the day. John Widdowson, vice-chairman of the British Free-Range Egg Producers Association, said: “If we shut them up, legally they won’t be free range without authorisation from a vet — and that is only for a short period of time. What is the consumer going to think, who pays a premium for free range eggs?”

Peter Melchett, of the Soil Association, which represents organic farmers, questioned whether it would be practical to confine Britain’s flock indoors. “Avian flu is a serious disease but there are some serious objections to keeping chickens indoors,” he said. “It would be a nightmare from a cost, welfare and disease point of view.

“It would be prohibitively expensive. These are birds that often have nowhere to be shut up, their only indoor access is for sleeping. Shutting them up might combat them getting bird flu, but would increase the chance of other diseases spreading. Outdoor birds are highly mobile and inquisitive, and for welfare reasons it would be unfair to keep them inside.”

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No registered human cases of bird flu in Russia.

There have been no confirmed human cases of bird flu in Russia as of August 22, the Consumer Rights Protection Service said in a press release Monday.

An outbreak of the highly pathogenic bird flu A (H5N1) occurred in poultry and wild fowl in Russia's Far East and Siberia earlier this month, but no instances of animal-to-human transmission have been detected so far. In some of the places hit by the outbreak, the quarantine has been lifted, with no new H5N1 cases reported for several days.

Poultry farmers slowly recover from bird flu

Thailand’s poultry farmers are still struggling to recover from the impact of the bird flu outbreak that has ravaged the industry since last year, but production has substantially improved, said Chaveevan Kampa, president of the Poultry Promotion Association of Thailand.

Poultry farming has been slowly picking up since late December, amid improving demand in both domestic and overseas markets, Chaveevan said in a recent interview.

“The current production is around 17 million birds a week,” up sharply from a low of eight million birds a week at the height of the bird flu outbreak, she said.
Millions of birds have died or were culled across Thailand since last year following the spread of the H5N1 virus, commonly known as bird flu, which also infected humans, killing eight children and four adults in the country. The last human death was in October 2004.

Prior to the outbreak, Thailand produced around 22 million to 23 million birds a week, Chaveevan said. The Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives has forecast broiler production in 2005 at 820 million birds, up 18 percent from 2004, when the outbreak was at its worst.

The outbreak has been mostly contained at large farms, as new cases discovered in Thailand have been restricted to village chickens, according to information from the ministry.

But with isolated cases reported as late as August 2, Thailand is still under a 90-day surveillance period. But if no new cases are found from now, the country will be declared bird-flu-free in early November, said an official at the Department of Livestock Development. Chaveevan said she expects Thai chicken exports to get a boost once the country is officially declared bird-flu free. Most importers haven’t bought any raw chicken from Thailand yet.

Major importers such as the European Union and Japan, which banned poultry imports from Thailand last year, have since eased some of those restrictions and have started buying processed chicken.

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Germany has emergency bird flu regulation ready.

Germany is ready to order farmers to keep poultry penned up in an effort to avert bird flu, but not yet, Agriculture and Consumer Protection Minister Renate Kuenast said.

Emergency regulations have been prepared under which poultry farmers could be ordered to keep their flocks in pens to prevent contact with wild birds migrating from central Asia where bird flu has been discovered, Kuenast told a news conference in Berlin. The order has not yet been put into force and poultry farmers can work as usual for the time being, she said. The disease would cause major damage to Europe's farming sector. An outbreak in 2003 led to the slaughter of a quarter of all Dutch poultry at a cost of hundreds of millions of euros. Kuenast said there was a danger, although small, that the disease could be brought into Germany by wild birds migrating from central Asia and the new regulations were to counter this danger. Mass bird deaths in a Russian region to the west of the Ural mountains this week have stoked fears that the virus may be spreading to Europe as birds migrate for the winter. Talks would now be held with experts and German state governments about if and when the emergency regulation should be put into effect. "It is ready for signing on my desk and can be put into action immediately," she said. She warned against panic on the bird flu issue but said the German government had to be ready to prevent the disease entering the country or the European Union.


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Bird flu virus confirmed in six Altai districts

Altai administration officials said the presence of bird flu virus had been officially confirmed in six districts.

"The bird flu situation is very difficult; it requires tough preventive measures and the elimination of the nidi of the infection," acting Altai governor Mikhail Kozlov said at a meeting with regional administration officials on Tuesday.

Laboratory tests confirmed bird flu in the villages of Glubokoye and Gonokhovo, Zavyalovsky district, the poultry farm in the Mamontovo district center, the villages of Guselyotovo and the settlement of Rassvet, Romanovsky district, the Vtorye Korosteli villages in the Rubtsovsky district, and the village of Proslaukha, Bayevsky district.

On Monday, veterinary services detected the bird flu virus in the village of Titovka, Yegoryevsky district.

All these settlements have been quarantined.

Access to the 13 poultry farms in the Altai territory has been severely restricted.

Due to the huge workload to cull the sick birds and implement preventive measures, Kozlov requested the regional veterinary service to enlist more technical personnel.

Meanwhile, specialists said the bird flu virus had migrated together with waterfowl, such as wild ducks, pintails, and wild geese. These species contact the birds which fly over southern Russian regions for wintering in Europe.

Siberia and Altai are located in migratory paths of birds that winter in Asia and Europe. Their passage will begin as early as this month.

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Dutch to keep poultry indoors to prevent bird flu

The Dutch Agriculture Ministry decided on Tuesday to make farmers keep all poultry indoors to prevent contact with migrating birds that could spread bird flu found in Russia.

Russia is battling to contain a bird flu outbreak, dangerous to humans, which has spread from Siberia to other Russian regions and Mongolia in the past week. Kazakhstan also found the the deadly H5N1 strain last week. There are concerns that the virus could spread westward to Europe, Middle East and Africa as tens of millions of birds continue their migration to warmer climates from next month ahead of Russia's harsh winter. "Agriculture Minister (Cees) Veerman will soon announce a package of measures to prevent bird flu reaching the Netherlands," the Dutch ministry said in a statement. "These... include keeping industrial poultry indoors." The measure excludes birds held by people for hobby reasons, the statement said. A relatively small part of the some 105 million poultry in the Netherlands, one of the world's biggest meat exporters, are kept outdoors for animal welfare reasons. But a special bird flu commission of Dutch virologists and veterinarians, set up to advise the ministry on how to prevent the disease said there was a danger that infected migrating birds could spread the deadly disease to outdoor poultry. "The threat (for the Netherlands) is there," professor Albert Osterhaus, influenza expert of the Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam, told Reuters. "We advised the minister to keep all free-range birds indoors because we wouldn't like to see a repeat of the culling of 30 million chickens in 2003," said Osterhaus, who is a member of the bird flu commission. The Netherlands was hit by an outbreak of bird flu disease in 2003, which led to the slaughter of a quarter of all Dutch poultry at a cost of hundreds of millions of euros. Local poultry farms are being tested regularly since then. Last week, the farm ministry said it had stepped up monitoring of migrating birds and launched weekly tests of birds' droppings. Senior Russian agricultural officials believe the deadly H5N1 strain was brought by migrating birds from Asia, where more than 50 people have died from that strain since 2003.

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Bird Flu Spreads Westward in Russia

Bird flu in Russia has reached the Chelyabinsk region from southern Siberia. This is the sixth region in the country where the AH5N1 strain of the virus has been discovered in domestic birds. And while it is potentially deadly for humans, no human cases have been registered yet.

On Monday, the Chelyabinsk region in the southern Urals became the sixth to join the contaminated zone. Veterinarians registered the outbreak in the settlement of Oktyabrskoye, where 60 birds died over the weekend, the region’s vice governor, Andrei Kosilov, announced on Monday. And experts have already identified the cause — testing the dead birds revealed the deadly strain. To avoid spread, local authorities decided to cull 400 domestic birds, including 270 chickens, 60 ducks, and 70 geese.

According to Kosilov’s announcement, the region surrounding the town has been quarantined. Experts have established a sanitation checkpoint and organized mass culling. The Oktyabrskoye region has over 25,000 birds. But not all of the birds will be culled, Kosilov said — only those infected or having contact with infected birds. “Veterinarians will closely monitor the infection among birds, and birds will only be destroyed after an infection is found.”

Russia’s Agricultural Directorate head Sergei Dankvert noted that the town is very close to a lake that borders the Kurgan region and Kazakhstan. These places have registered outbreaks of bird flu, and epidemiologists say that the virus was spread by wild migratory birds that spend their summers in these places.

The Novosibirsk region was the first place where infection was registered. The first deaths were noted in the town of Suzdalka on July 21, when about 200 chickens and geese died. On August 1, authorities in the Novosibirsk region announced a quarantine of 13 settlements in four districts. Since then, over 55,000 birds have been destroyed, said regional governor Viktor Tolokonsky.

If Novosibirsk bird farms had not registered a single case of bird flu, a small farm in Mamont, in the Altai region where the outbreak spread, discovered its birds were sick. Initially, the owner of the private farm tried to hide his outbreak from the authorities, and will now face criminal penalties.

According to the Emergency Ministry, meanwhile, over 10,000 domestic and wild birds died of bird flu in Russia since July 21, while hundreds of thousands of birds were culled.

By Monday, the outbreak continued to spread: three more residential areas in the Novosibirsk region were include into the areas contaminated with the virus. However, in two residential areas, medical monitoring has been stopped. According to the Consumer Products Directorate, bird loss has stopped in a majority of previously infected regions such as Omsk, Novosibirsk, and Tyumen.

As of August 14, no humans who came into contact with dead birds have contracted the virus, said the directorate.

Still, the story told by a Novosibirsk TV reporter, Maria Pashkova, sparked wide resonance. Pashkova told that she suffered a high fever and headache the day after shooting at a contaminated residential area. “I called the doctors, and after learning that I had been in a quarantined zone, they sent me to a state infectious diseases facility that is part of the Vektor Institute.”

Sergei Netesov of the Vektor Molecular Biology Institute told that this was standard procedure for everyone who could have come into contact with the virus. The results of Pashkova’s tests will be known on August 17, but now she says she is feeling fine. “I think it was just a cold,” she says.

The Altai region is also implementing protective measures for its population. And while local authorities say there is no need to announce a quarantine, medical personnel conduct daily checks in areas where people may have come into contact with sick birds. The regional administration has ordered all medical facilities to be prepared to treat anyone with symptoms of bird flu. “We are stocking up on anti-viral medication and the necessary medical equipment,” Igor Saldan of the Altai Regional Consumer Products Directorate was quoted as saying. Moreover, routine flu vaccines will begin early this year — in September. Such measures are taken to help prevent a cross mutation between the common flu and the bird flu — which could lead to a pandemic.

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Bird flu may spread to southern Russia

Bird flu may spread to the Astrakhan, Rostov and Volgograd regions, Stavropol and Krasnodar territories in southern Russia this fall, the country's chief sanitary doctor said Monday.

"An analysis of bird migration routes has shown that the contagious A (H5N1) virus may spread from Western Siberia to the Caspian and Black Sea areas this fall," Gennady Onishchenko said in a letter to the heads of regional departments of the Federal Service for the Oversight of Consumer Protection and Welfare. "Some birds nesting in the affected regions (the Novosibirsk region and Altai territory) migrate to the above-mentioned areas for winter or stop there on their way to Africa or Europe."

Bird migration routes run through Azerbaijan, Iran, Iraq, Georgia, Ukraine and Mediterranean countries, where bird flu outbreaks are also possible, he added.

"The 2006 spring migration may result in a spread of the A (H5N1) contagious virus across European Russia because birds migrating from European Russia and Siberia have common winter nesting areas," Onishchenko said.

According to the World Health Organization, 112 people contracted bird flu between December 2003 and August 2005 and 57 of them died.

He also said that the A (H5N1) virus had mutated and could infect people with fatal results.

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Russia Journalist hospitalized in Siberia with suspected bird flu

Tests are being conducted to ascertain if a journalist hospitalized on August 12 has contracted bird flu, a health official in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk said Monday.

Maria Pashkova, a correspondent of the Novosibirsk state TV and radio company, was hospitalized days after returning from an assignment to areas in the region affected by an outbreak of bird flu. She felt ill upon her return home, and was admitted to hospital with a high temperature and headaches.

Pashkova is the fifth person to have been hospitalized with suspected bird flu, although tests failed to confirm that the other patients had contracted the disease. The journalist's results will be known later this week.

A regional health department official did not rule out the bird flu virus that had affected in the region could mutate and become dangerous for people. Sergei Pavlenko said that although humans could not contract the bird flu virus, the potential danger that the strain could mutate could not be ruled out.

According to the official, nobody has contracted bird flu in the Novosibirk region. Pavlenko also said quarantine measures had been imposed in 14 areas hit by the outbreak and doctors were making house calls every day in a bid to preclude any danger to the local population.

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Tibetan bird flu outbreak 'under control'

An outbreak of the deadly H5N1-type bird flu has been brought under control in the Tibet Autonomous Region.

The outbreak, at a chicken farm in the suburbs of Lhasa, the region's capital, killed 133 birds, there were no human infections.

"China National Bird Flu Reference Laboratory confirmed on August 10 that the H5N1 strain of avian influenza had been found at a chicken farm in Duodi Township, Chengguan District of Lhasa," an official with the regional government said on Friday.

The regional Bureau of Agriculture and Animal Husbandry official, who declined to be identified, said 133 infected birds died of the virus early this month, prompting the culling of 2,608 birds at the farm.

Regional authorities put strict measures in place to prevent the spread of the disease.

"The outbreak has been brought under control," the official said in a telephone interview, adding that animal health experts are investigating how the birds became infected.

No similar cases have been reported in other parts of the plateau region, bureau sources said.

In accordance with requirements for preventing and limiting the highly infectious H5N1 strain of bird flu, the autonomous region has adopted measures such as emergency inoculation of all fowl within 5 kilometres of the suspected outbreak.

Monitoring of all breeding farms in Lhasa has been tightened, and a daily epidemic reporting mechanism put in place.

Up to now, vaccinations for waterfowl have been distributed across Tibet except in Ngari Prefecture, according to the bureau sources.

The Ministry of Agriculture said it had informed the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and the world animal health body OIE of the outbreak earlier this week.

It is the second report of the H5N1 virus in China this year following one in May in Qinghai Province.

China successfully brought 50 cases of bird flu under control last year.

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Bulgaria Bans Poultry Import from Russia, Kazakhstan

Bulgaria will cease the import and transit of live poultry, as well as plumage and feathers without heat treatment from Russia and Kazakhstan, the Bulgarian Agriculture Minister Nihat Kabil ordered on Friday.

The ban is imposed to prevent the spreading of the bird flu disease, cases of which were spotted in those regions, Agriculture Ministry announced.

The Director General of the Bulgarian National Veterinary Service will be responsible for keeping the order.

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Poultry yards in Siberia, stricken by chicken flu, kill wild birds.

Poultry yards in the Kurgan Region, situated in Western Siberia, shoot down wild birds in the vicinity of their enterprises, Tass learnt on Monday at the press service of the regional government. According to the press service, “the heads of local bodies of self-government will issue permits to huntsmen and fishermen to shoot down wild birds at places, stricken by chicken flu and to destroy them in the presence of specialists of the veterinary service in order to prevent the spread of infection”.

Early in August, cases of mass death of wild birds and poultry were recorded in two districts of the region – the Petukhovsky and Chistoozersky districts. Experts of the Novosibirsk laboratory confirmed the presence of the chicken flu virus. The regional commission for emergencies issued a decision to destroy sick poultry.

The regional public health department inspected 268 people in the village of Butyrino where the first cases of the chicken flu were recorded, and 1,050 people in the Petukhovsky district. No disease signs were revealed among people. The department mapped out measures if such signs are recorded. Sanitary control was established over sales of poultry from private farmsteads.

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Bird flu virus detected in free-range ducks in Thailand

The Department of Livestock Development of Thailand has detected the bird flu disease in free- range ducks in its random check on poultry to monitor, control and eradicate the deadly disease.

The Department's Director-General Yukol Limlaemthong was quoted by the Thai News Agency as saying that lab test results confirmed that bird flu virus was found in the samples of free-range ducks from the central province of Chai Nat.

The department ordered the culling of more than 1,700 ducks and announced an intensified 21-day surveillance in the area.

The virus was detected this week amid the government's comprehensive inspections of poultry across the country since last month.

Officials focus on free-range ducks because they can spread the disease without showing any sign of bird flu symptoms.

However, Yukol said that the detection of the bird flu in free- range ducks would not affect poultry export and processed chicken.

He said Thailand has continuously reported the bird flu situation to the Office International des Epizooties (OIE), the inter-governmental organization to ensure transparency in the global animal disease situation as well as the key importer countries of Thai poultry products.


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Bird Flu Spreads to Mongolia

A bird flu outbreak has expanded in Siberia and spread to Mongolia on Wednesday, and Kazakhstan confirmed a fowl virus found in the Central Asian state could kill humans.

Officials said no people had been infected so far, but the highly potent H5N1 strain has killed more than 50 people in Asia since 2003. Outbreaks in the former Soviet bloc raised fears the virus could infect humans and trigger a global epidemic.

In the Novosibirsk region, officials found the virus in another village, Novorozino, taking the total number of infected areas there to 14, Interfax reported.

"Domestic birds in that village will be ... killed," a regional administration official said, Interfax reported.

About 35,000 birds have been killed in the Novosibirsk region to prevent the deadly virus from spreading further.

The total number of bird deaths since the epidemic hit Siberia in mid-July rose to 8,347 on Wednesday, the Emergency Situations Ministry said. The number on Tuesday was just over 5,580.

"There have been no cases of people getting ill," the ministry said in a statement.

In Kazakhstan, which shares a long border with Siberia, the Agriculture Ministry confirmed that the virus found in birds was the deadly H5N1 strain.

The ministry, which reported an outbreak of avian flu on Aug. 4, said a quarantine was in place in the affected area near the village of Golubovka in northern Kazakhstan's Pavlodar region.

In Mongolia, which also shares a border with Russia, nearly 80 migratory birds have died from bird flu, the first time the disease has been reported in the country, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization said.

Russian's Emergency Situations Ministry said most bird deaths on Tuesday and Wednesday occurred in the Omsk and Kurgan regions on the Kazakh border.

Other affected regions include Altai and Tyumen.

Kazakhstan sought to play down fears of a growing problem."The epizootic situation in poultry farms is safe," the Agriculture Ministry said. "As of Aug. 9, there have been no reports of new outbreaks of the disease among poultry or wildfowl in the country."

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China reported bird flu cases in Tibet

China has discovered a strain of bird flu, likely the one deadly to humans, at a farm in Tibet, making the western region the third to be hit in the country, the world animal health body OIE said on Wednesday.

"We just received the information that bird flu has been detected in Tibet," OIE director-general Bernard Vallat told Reuters. He said the virus found was likely to be the H5N1 strain that has swept large parts of Asia, killing more than 50 people in the region. The disease also led to the death of 140 million birds in Asia at a cost running to billions of dollars. "It's highly pathogenic so it will likely have the same aggressiveness as in the rest of Asia," Vallat said. The Chinese authorities informed the Paris-based OIE that 133 infected birds had died in a farm close to the capital Lhasa, which had prompted them to cull an additional 2,600 birds in the surrounding area. China did not say what type of bird had been infected but Vallat said it was likely to be chicken. The news comes on the same day as confirmation that a bird flu outbreak in Kazakhstan was the deadly H5N1 strain and news that the disease had extended its reach in Russian Siberia and spread to Mongolia. But Vallat said the Tibet outbreak probably came from another part of China. The Asian country already reported bird flu outbreaks in its western provinces of Xinjiang and Qinghai, which are adjacent to Tibet. Some scientists have warned that avian flu, infectious in birds, does not spread easily among humans but it could mutate into a form better able to pass from animals to people, possibly triggering a global pandemic. They say such a pandemic would likely start in Asia and could kill millions and result in devastating economic losses. Vallat said the fact that bird flu had spread to Tibet was maybe because China had not applied bird vaccination in the entire country. "So we can hope that now they will extend vaccination and that the virus will be quickly contained," he said.

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Bird flu still threatening Indonesia

Indonesia has passed the incubation period of bird flu virus after the outbreak killed three people in the outskirts of Jakarta, but the disease was still possible to spread as the method to eliminate the virus was questionable, ministers and WHO officials said here on Wednesday.

Indonesian Health Minister Siti Fadilah Supari said that if one of the affected poultry still lived, it could contract the virus to human.

"As long as there are still chicken with bird flu, the disease can spread," Supari told Xinhua.

Meanwhile, Technical Officer of the World Health Organization (WHO) Steven Bjorge told Xinhua that the practice of culling was still very much questionable.

"(The current culling method) was developed from the experience in the developing countries, where poultry raising is very concentrated in almost factory-type situation. Large farm that can be easily controlled. (But) in Southeast Asia and in Indonesia there are so many chickens living in back yard," said Bjorge.

To overcome the problem, the WHO officer proposed a field research to determine what was the right way and how to implement it.

"So, I want to emphasize that even though there are these recommendations for culling and vaccination, it is not clear how this can be implemented in the environment of Southeast Asia," he said.

Indonesia has conducted selective culling to prevent further spread of the H5N1 virus.

The virus has spread to 21 provinces out of 33 since late 2003, killing over 10 million fowl. The virus spread to pigs in Indonesia on Java island earlier this year.

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Russian bird flu advances, Kazakhs say virus deadly

A bird flu outbreak extended its reach in Russian Siberia and spread to Mongolia on Wednesday, and neighbouring Kazakhstan confirmed a fowl virus found in the Central Asian state could kill humans.

Officials said no people had been infected so far, but the highly potent H5N1 strain has killed over 50 people in Asia since 2003. Outbreaks in the ex-Soviet bloc raised fears the virus could infect humans and trigger a global epidemic. In Siberia's Novosibirsk region, officials found the virus in another village, Novorozino, taking the total number of infected areas there to 14, Interfax news agency reported. "Domestic birds in that village will be ... killed," Interfax quoted a regional administration official as saying. About 35,000 birds have been killed in the Novosibirsk region to prevent the deadly virus from spreading further. The total number of bird deaths since the epidemic hit Siberia in mid-July rose to 8,347 on Wednesday, the Emergencies Ministry said. The number on Tuesday was just over 5,580. "There have been no cases of people getting ill," the ministry said in a note. In Kazakhstan, which shares a long border with Siberia, the Agriculture Ministry confirmed that the virus found in birds was the deadly H5N1 strain. The ministry, which reported an outbreak of avian flu on Aug. 4, said a quarantine was in place in the affected area near the Golubovka village in northern Kazakhstan's Pavlodar region. In Mongolia, which also shares a border with Russia, nearly 80 migratory birds have died from bird flu, the first time the disease has been reported in the country, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said. The Russian Emergencies Ministry said most bird deaths on Tuesday and Wednesday occurred in the Omsk and Kurgan regions on the Kazakh border. Other affected Russian regions include Altai, Tyumen and Novosibirsk. Some Russian health and veterinary officials have suggested migrating birds could export the virus as far away as the United States from Siberia. KAZAKHS CALM There are no known cases of H5N1 bird flu passing from one human to another, but some health officials fear that the virus could mutate and create a pandemic to rival the 40 million people killed by Spanish flu at the end of World War One. Kazakhstan, roughly the size of Western Europe with a population of just 15 million people, sought to play down fears of a growing problem. "The epizootic situation in (Kazakhstan's) poultry farms is safe," the agriculture ministry said. "As of Aug. 9 there have been no reports of new outbreaks of the disease among poultry or wildfowl in the republic." It added officials were testing wildfowl in the many lakes and reservoirs near the village of Golubovka. A quarantine was also in place at the village of Vinogradovka where bird flu was earlier reported and 345 poultry birds had been culled, it said. The European Union said on Saturday it would ban imports of chicken and other poultry from Russia and Kazakhstan to help prevent the spread of the disease -- a symbolic measure as there is no poultry trade between them and the EU.

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WHO Says Bird Flu Should Disappear in 15 Days

The bird flu outbreak in Siberia is subsiding and should disappear altogether in 10 to 15 days, a World Health Organization specialist said Tuesday.

"Things are quieting down," Oleg Kiselyov, head of a research institute operating under the WHO's auspices, told reporters. "It won't spread further because of changing weather conditions. It's never warm enough in Siberia in late August. ... The measures undertaken have helped localize the outbreak."

In another sign of calm, the Emergency Situations Ministry said the number of deaths among domestic and wild birds was just 15 overnight compared with a total of 5,583 since mid-July.

But the country's top epidemiologist, Gennady Onishchenko, said it was too early to draw rosy conclusions. "We would've been drinking champagne by now if it had been pinned down," he said in Novosibirsk.

The highly potent H5N1 strain is mainly concentrated in the Novosibirsk region. It has killed over 50 people in Asia since 2003.

There were also fears among veterinary officials that migrating birds could take the virus to other countries.

"It's possible that they have already spread it," Yevgeny Nepoklonov, a senior veterinary official, told Interfax. "They fly not only over Siberia but also along the far eastern coast on to the United States. Some birds fly along the Kazakh border from Novosibirsk water reservoirs and then on to Volgograd."

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WHO in talks with Roche on bird flu stockpile

The World Health Organization is in talks with Swiss drug maker Roche on building a stockpile of the anti-bird flu drug Tamiflu capable of treating at least one million people, its director general said on Tuesday.

"What I am expecting to have is initially one million, and I hope that that can be multiplied," Lee Jong-wook told reporters in Thailand, one of the countries worst hit by the virus which has killed 62 people in Asia since 2003. Basel-based Roche said last week it was considering donating a "substantial amount" of Tamiflu to the United Nations health agency, although it did not give details. Outling a defence strategy against the killer H5N1 bird flu strain, whose latest victim -- a 32-year-old Vietnamese man -- was announced on Tuesday, Lee said rigorous health monitoring in countries at risk was essential in containing outbreaks. "The really important issue is surveillance, surveillance, surveillance," Lee said. "On the map there are lots of boundaries, but the virus does not carry a passport." Scientists fear the virus, which does not pass easily between humans, could mutate to become easily transmittable and unleash a global pandemic which could kill millions. However, if national health authorities were quick to detect any outbreak, and if either national or international stockpiles of treatments such as Tamiflu were administered quickly enough, the risk of global outbreak would be reduced greatly, Lee said. The Geneva-based WHO had enough Tamiflu to treat 125,000 people and it could be delivered swiftly anywhere in the world. "It's a matter of hours. In today's world, we won't be shipping this out by steam boat," he said. But it would make sense to have stockpiles in regions deemed at higher risk, he said. Lee said the United States and Europe -- which is looking increasingly at risk given the rapid spread of H5N1 across Siberia -- were waking up to the need to fund a drug stockpile against a virus which has largely only affected poor countries. "Nobody wants to fight this battle in their own garden. They want to put it out outside," Lee said. The World Bank said it too was involved in the funding negotiations. "We are looking at the potential economic impact of such an epidemic and we are working in that case with partners," Jacques Baudouy, director of bank's health and population department told Reuters in Bangkok. "As we speak, in Washington there is a meeting of partners, including the EU, which want to organise some kind of trust fund," Baudouy said. Roche says that more than 25 governments have now placed orders for Tamiflu in preparation for a potential human outbreak. Britain, for example, has said it wants a stockpile large enough to treat 2 million people.

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Bird flu vaccine passes U.S. clinical test

U.S. scientists announced they have successfully tested a vaccine to protect against bird flu, The New York Times reports.

Health officials feared the worst after a growing strain of the virus has been devastating livestock as it spreads west through Asia and Russia. Fifty people have died from the virus.

Scientists worldwide predicted a pandemic if that strain mixed with the human flu virus.

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the vaccine is ready for emergency use but further tests are needed before it will be available to the general public.

He said the vaccine is to protect against infection, not help those who are sick.

Fauci also said he doubts the vaccine industry's ability to make enough.

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Bird Flu Heading for Europe?

The discovery of bird flu in Siberia has sparked r enewed concerns about an outbreak of the deadly virus in Europe. But the threat is limited, experts say.

Kazakhstan this week confirmed an outbreak of bird flu in the north of the country where 400 geese died at a poultry farm in late July, but scientists have yet to determine whether the virus poses a threat to humans.

The news follows the discovery of bird flu cases in 18 Siberian villages, where Russian authorities have ordered the culling of poultry. The virus found there has been identified as the highly pathogenic H5N1 strain (photo) of the avian influenza virus that has killed more than 50 people in South-East Asia since 2003.

"The disease probably arrived in Siberia from Asia through wild birds and there's no doubt that birds from there fly to Europe," Bernard Vallat, the director-general of the world animal health body OIE, told Reuters.

Different farm structure reduces risk of outbreak.

But because farm structures are very different in Europe, it will be a lot more difficult for the virus to spread and infect humans, Vallat said. "Farms here are enclosed and separated from one another," he said. In Asia, small backyard farms and unregulated local markets have allowed the disease to take hold as well as maximizing the contact between people and infected birds. So far all humans infected by the virus had contracted it directly from the animals.The outbreaks in Russia and Kazakhstan extend the number of countries affected by the disease. However, it is hard to quantify to what extent this increases the risk of spreading it to Europe and beyond, said Susanne Glasmacher of the Robert-Koch-Institut in Berlin, Germany's national institute charged with researching and surveying the spread of infectious diseases.

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Virus mutation poses the real danger

"The real danger lies in the possibility that the deadly bird flu virus mutates into a form that transmits easily between humans," Glasmacher said. The World Health Organization (WHO) fears that in this case the virus could kill millions of people worldwide. This is also confirmed by UK and US researchers who used computer models to simulate the spread of a mutated form of the virus.

Contingency plans in place

A senior Russian veterinary official said the Netherlands and France were potential destinations for migratory wildfowl. The Dutch farm ministry played down the threat, saying, after a risk assessment, that further measures were unnecessary. Surveillance and eradication plans had already been stepped up following a major outbreak in the Netherlands of the less dangerous H7N7 bird flu strain in 2003, when 30 million birds were destroyed at a direct cost of more than 150 million euros ($185.5 million).In Germany, the Robert-Koch-Institut presented the last part of a national "pandemic contingency plan" in May outlining a coordinated response by the authorities to an outbreak of the deadly virus among humans.

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Vaccines key to containing outbreak in humans

Experts agree that a key to fighting a pandemic is that vaccines and anti-viral medication are available quickly and in sufficient quantities in the concerned regions.

Swiss firm Roche said this week it was in talks with the WHO on donating substantial quantities of its anti-bird flu drug Tamiflu to the UN agency. And Britain's Acambis said it was developing a potentially breakthrough new shot that could offer permanent protection against all types of flu.

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Bird flu case suspected in east Japan

A case of bird flu was suspected in east Japan's Fukushima Prefecture, Nihon Keizai reported Thursday.

According to the Japanese economic daily, the prefecture announced Wednesday that the blood serum of some chickens in a local hennery tested positive for a bird flu virus and the National Institute of Animal Health in Ibaraki Prefecture is now conducting confirmation tests.

The Fukushima prefectural government is now taking emergency efforts to sterilize the hennery facility and restrict transporting chickens in affected area to other places, the newspapers said.

Japan reported an outbreak of bird flu, the first in the country since 1925, in Yamaguchi Prefecture last December


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Bird Flu Spreads to Another Russian Region

Russian veterinary officials said Tuesday that an outbreak of an avian flu strain that can infect humans has spread to another region in Siberia, while authorities were struggling to contain the virus.

The outbreak began in the Novosibirsk region in early July and has killed thousands of domestic fowl. The veterinary service last week identified the virus as the H5N1 strain, which can fatally infect humans, but no human cases have been reported in Russia.

The same strain has been recorded in a village in the adjacent Altai territory, and Yevgeny Nepoklonov, a deputy head of the nation's veterinary service, said on NTV television Tuesday that it has also been found in a village in the Tyumen region, further west in Siberia.

Domestic fowl also died in the nearby Omsk region, but the strain there has not yet been determined.

"A quarantine has been imposed on the settlements affected, and necessary measures are being taken to contain the sources of infection," the veterinary service said in a statement.

The Emergency Situations Ministry said Tuesday the outbreak already has killed 2,707 domestic fowl, including 325 since Sunday morning.

Authorities in all regions affected by the outbreak have tightened control over poultry farms, disinfecting their workers and checking fowl. The administration of the Novosibirsk region has ordered the slaughter of 65,000 domestic fowl in all 14 villages affected.

Several regional governments also have imposed bans on poultry sales across provincial borders.

Gennady Onishchenko, Russia's chief epidemiologist, sought to assuage public fears during an inspection trip to the Novosibirsk region Tuesday, saying the outbreak was being successfully contained.

The veterinary service said the virus apparently had been brought by birds migrating from Southeast Asia. The virus has swept through poultry populations in large areas of Asia since 2003, killing tens of millions of birds and at least 60 people, most of them in Vietnam and Thailand.

Almost all the humans who have been killed contracted the virus from poultry, but experts worry it could mutate into a more deadly virus that could spread from person to person.

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Bird flu may cost Russian poultry farmers $1 bln

The zone of the chicken flu outbreak in Russia is expanding: the virus has been found in the Altai territory and the Omsk region in the south of Western Siberia, a leading business daily reported Tuesday.

Kommersant wrote that poultry farmers had calculated that if bird flu affected poultry farms, their losses might reach $1 billion.

Dmitry Rylko, director of the Institute of the Agrarian Market Situation, said: "There will be a catastrophe if the virus spreads to Tyumen (north of Western Siberia), Omsk and further, to European Russia," where the country's largest poultry farms are situated.

Experts warn that bird flu may spread to European Russia with chicken egg supplies, up to 50% of which are exported from Tyumen and Krasnoyarsk (Eastern Siberia). If bird flu spreads to such regions as the Leningrad or Moscow regions, virtually every poultry farms will have to be closed.

Market players say that if chicken flu affects poultry farms, their losses may exceed the investments made in the industry over the past five years, which, according to the Russian Poultry Farmers Union, have reached to $800-900 million.

The measures taken by poultry farms to ensure that their products are not contaminated - additional disinfecting and the use of disposable packing for egg transportation - has put the prices of these products by more than 10%.

"Now all producers have to insure their poultry, which will raise the cost of poultry meat production by an average of 3-5%," said Dmitry Aveltsov Stavropolsky, the financial director of the Stravropol Broiler company.

A poultry farm spokesman speaking on the condition of anonymity said: "While we will be resuming production, Brazilian and American chicken legs will again take our place on the market and it will take much more effort and money to force them out of the market for the second time."

According to the paper, market players do not expect a sudden rise in retail prices for chicken meat and eggs. However, in the opinion of Ilya Kunkov, chairman of the board of directors of the Sinyavinskaya poultry farm, "they will probably increase in fall and winter."

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Avian flu scare from migratory birds

From being welcome visitors to the country, migratory birds this year have become a source of fear. India is one of the few South Asian countries that have remained insulated from the bird flu, and the government fears that these birds may carry the virus.

The fear is not unfounded. Scientists have found the bird flu virus in migrating geese in China. So, the bar-headed geese coming to India from China and Russia poses a threat. ‘‘As the import of poultry products has been banned from the countries affected by the bird flu, the migratory birds pose the only problem,’’ said Union Health Minister Dr Anbumani Ramadoss.

The deadly virus strain has been found in the migratory geese at a nature reserve in western China. Tens of thousands of birds that could be carrying the H5N1 avian influenza virus are due to leave the reserve in September, heading for warmer climes across the Himalayas and in the south, towards Australia and New Zealand.

‘‘These birds reach India mostly in early October,’’ said Dr N K Ganguly, Director General, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). The birds, according to experts, can pass the virus to domestic or poultry animals which can, in turn, transmit to humans as well.

‘‘While the death rate is about 90 per cent in chicken, many deaths in these birds have been reported by scientists in China in the recent past,’’ Dr Ganguly added.

The latest epidemic was first detected in April 2005 in bar-headed geese at Qinghai Lake Reserve in China. By May 20, it had killed some 1,500 birds. Brown-headed gulls, great black-headed gulls and great cormorants were also infected. Genetic analysis of the virus extracted from the dead birds showed it was closely related to the strain that has jumped to humans in Thailand and Vietnam.

‘‘Most of these birds go to isolated places in India, but they might pass on the virus through water bodies,’’ said Dr Ganguly. Experts also believe that the birds might mix with birds from Europe and pose a global threat.

The health ministry is on high alert as experts have called for urgent action to prevent the disease, which has killed 54 people in South Asia so far.

While a national consultation to assess our preparedness was held in the Capital today, the health ministry has decided to set up a task force to review the threat. The government is also working closely with WHO experts. ‘‘We have set up surveillance sites and will be keeping a watch on the birds for early detection. Testing of the birds might also be done if required,’’ said Dr Ramadoss.

There are, however, more concerns. The country has very low production of influenza vaccines and case of an epidemic outbreak, there might be a shortage. ‘‘Hardly anybody uses influenza vaccines in India. A report showed that just 40,000 were used in 2004-2005. Producing vaccines for this strain will take at least six months,’’ said Dr Ganguly.

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Russian Governor Orders Mass Poultry Culling Amid Bird Flu Fear

The governor of Eastern Siberia’s Novosibirsk region, Viktor Tolokonskiy, has ordered the mass culling of poultry in areas where a potentially dangerous strain of bird flu was found last week, the Interfax news agency reported on Monday.

The agency quoted the governor as saying at a meeting with officials that the introduction of a quarantine regime in Novosibirsk region called for the slaughter of all the poultry in those districts where seats of infections have been registered.

On the same day the Itar-Tass news agency quoted Valeriy Mikheyev, the Novosibirsk region’s chief sanitary doctor, as saying that all the poultry in 13 populated areas in the west of the region will be slaughtered. He said that “the operation will start on Aug. 2. Measures to compensate the owners of the poultry are being drawn up.”

Mikheyev said that “the state of health of the people living in these populated areas is not causing concern. Households are being inspected on a daily basis, up to 6,000 people are being checked every day.” Additional medical staff have been recruited for this purpose. The condition of drinking water and the observance of the ban on the export of poultry and meat to other regions are being monitored. The slaughtered poultry is to be burned.

According to the regional administration’s press service, in the last few days not a single new case of bird flu has been registered in three of the region’s four districts where the quarantine has been reported. In the Zdvinskiy district alone about 20 birds have died.

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