News clippings about Bird Flu in November 2005.
back to top
North Africa gears up for bird flu threat
Morocco and neighbour Algeria have drawn up plans to combat the spread of deadly bird flu which experts believe could arrive in North Africa within months.
The main threat is seen as coming early next year when migratory birds return from other parts of the continent.
The H5N1 bird flu strain is known to have killed almost 70 people in Asia and experts fear it may now be spread to Africa by birds flying from Russia. "Bird flyways from Russia and central Europe take them to eastern and central Africa. It is there that they could mix with other birds that would be heading back to North Africa in the spring," said Mohamed El Haouadfi, professor of avian pathology at Rabat's Hassan II Agronomy and Veterinary Institute.
"We have a few months to prepare," he told Reuters.
Billions of birds migrate to Africa every year in search of warmer climates. Birds from Russia fly via eastern Europe and congregate in areas like the Rift Valley in East Africa. Migratory birds from western Europe, where there have been no major H5N1 bird flu cases, use Morocco and Algeria as staging posts in their flight south.
"Algeria is crossed by flows coming from western Europe," said Abdesselem Chelghoum, secretary general at the Algerian agriculture ministry.
Moroccan authorities fear that the large number of backyard farms, as in other parts of Africa, makes the country particularly vulnerable if bird flu takes hold. Backyard farms in Asia have been one reason why the virus has become in endemic there and caused so many human cases.
Morocco has a total poultry flock approaching 200 million birds, including 16 million egg-laying hens. Most are kept enclosed in industrial breeding houses, which are strictly controlled. However, some 30 million are in local smallholdings, where they live in close proximity to people.
"This is the real problem for us and there's no easy answer to controlling the disease there," El Haouadfi said. The government has also been building stocks of anti-viral treatments to help deal with any eventual mutation of the H5N1 strain into one that can be passed easily between humans.
Experts fear that if this happens, it could unleash an influenza pandemic potentially killing millions of people. But the focus of Morocco's plan is on stopping the virus spreading among poultry.
Some 60 sites, mostly lakes and wetlands, have been identified as potential "hotspots" for infected migratory birds. Any dead birds found at these sites are tested.
None so far has any shown signs of the H5N1 strain. Live bird imports from infected countries have been banned.
El Haouadfi said compensation would be made available to farmers for any culled birds, otherwise they may be reluctant to come forward in reporting cases. Algeria, with 130 million chickens, has also put plans in place. The agriculture ministry will distribute information notes to breeders and the general public on its potential arrival, state news agency APS said. "Prevention is the main measure. We're focused on banning imports of some avian products and birds," Chelghoum said
back to top
Bird flu quarantine lifted in Liaoning
The quarantine of the bird flu-hit spots in northeast China's Liaoning Province has all been lifted, the local government announced Thursday afternoon.
After 21-day isolation, the Heishan County, Beining
City, Nanzhan New District of Jinzhou City, Fuxin Mongolian Autonomous County, which reported bird flu outbreaks in succession since Nov.3, were approved to lift the quarantine by the national headquarters of bird flu control, said Zhou Liyuan, head of the provincial bird flu control headquarters.
No new bird flu cases were reported in the last 21 days in the areas, which is the longest incubation period for the H5N1 avian flu virus, said Zhou, adding the epidemic zones had not reported any human bird flu case either.
At the Taihe market in Heishan County, Li Jingsheng, a chicken dealer, smiled when hearing the news about lifting the quarantine.
"Of course it's a good news, because I can sell chicken again," said Li, who began to sell pork instead of chicken on Nov. 3 when the market banned chicken and egg sales.
"The most important thing for me to do now is to help my fellow villagers reduce their economic loss by raising livestock, like pigs, cattle or sheep," said Zhang Mingquan, head of the Duanjia Town in Heishan County.
Although the quarantine was lifted, veterinarians would continue to monitor the areas, said Zhou.
Liaoning has mobilized more than 20,000 veterinarians to help farmers inject vaccines for more than 300 million fowls.
In addition, to prevent villagers from being infected with the disease, medical workers were assigned to take all the villagers' temperature everyday and disinfect the all the bird flu-hit spots, said Zhou.
back to top
UK tracking illegal poultry imports from China - report
The UK's food safety regulator is trying to locate hundreds of tonnes of poultry, beef and pork after an illegal shipment of chicken from China was intercepted, the Guardian reported.
The discovery prompted raids on meat wholesaler Eurofreeze (Ireland) Ltd where the authorities found evidence of other illegally relabelled meats, the report said.
As a result, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) is trying to trace meat supplied by Eurofreeze to companies across the UK, it said.
All local environmental health authorities have been instructed to check meat from Eurofreeze and to impound any products with suspicious labelling.
The Guardian said the investigation began after the authorities in Northern Ireland alerted the FSA that Eurofreeze was being probed following news of an illegal consignment of poultry from China to Belfast in August.
Imports of live birds and poultry meat from China are banned by the European Union as a precautionary measure to prevent the spread of bird flu and because drops of illegal antibiotics have been found in the past.
The authorities in Northern Ireland discovered fake copies of health marks - used to show food has passed a certain standard test - from major companies in Ireland, Holland, Spain and Germany when they raided Eurofreeze's premises near Enniskillen, according to The Guardian.
Eurofreeze declined to comment on the matter, the newspaper said.
An FSA spokesman said the agency was unaware of any immediate health problems with the meat but had yet to test the intercepted products.
'Most of the meat there is still frozen, there are thousands of boxes, so it presents a huge logistical problem,' he told The Guardian.
back to top
Bird flu kills 250 swans in Russia
MOSCOW: Around 250 wild swans have died from an H5-type bird flu on the Volga River delta in southern Russia, Russian news agencies reported on Tuesday.
“Analysis showed that the swans died from the H5 bird flu infection,” the emergency situations ministry was quoted as saying by the official RIA Novosti agency.
Russia’s deputy veterinary chief, Yevgeny Nepoklonov, told state-run ITAR-TASS that roughly 250 swans had died and that a quarantine was being enforced around the area near the city of Astrakhan.
Officials did not say whether it was suspected the flu could by the H5N1 variety, a deadly strain of which has killed more than 60 people in Asia in the past two years.
H5N1 has so far been detected in birds in eight Russian provinces and hundreds of thousands of birds have been slaughtered in an effort to quell the virus, which officials say was brought from Asia by migratory birds. afp
back to top
US clears bird flu drug Tamiflu
America's powerful medicines regulator has ruled there is no evidence of a link between the bird flu drug Tamiflu and the deaths of 12 children in Japan.
A Food and Drug Administration panel found no "causal link" between the deaths over the past 13 months and the drug, which is widely distributed.
Swiss manufacturer Roche welcomed the ruling, saying: "The positive role of Tamiflu remains unchanged."
Tamiflu, it added, would be relabelled to warn of possible skin side-effects.
Countries have placed huge orders for Tamiflu to ward off a feared pandemic that scientists fear could result from the H5N1 strain of bird flu.
'Adverse skin events'
The FDA had looked at 75 cases of mental and skin disorders - 69 of them in Japan - which raised concern about the use of Tamiflu in children.
Of the 12 deaths, four were described as sudden, one attributed to a fall during a psychiatric disturbance, and several others to heart and lung failure.
There were also 32 cases of psychiatric disturbance, including hallucinations.
The FDA panel concluded that there was no "causal link between paediatric deaths and neuropsychiatric adverse events and Tamiflu".
"We welcome the outcome of the FDA advisory committee and look forward to working with the FDA and other health authorities to extend our knowledge of the use of Tamiflu and its safety profile," said William Burns, head of Roche's pharmaceuticals division.
Roche intended, however, to "work with the FDA to change the drug's labelling based on adverse skin events that have occurred in a small number of patients, mostly in Japan".
Roche said earlier the rate of deaths and psychiatric problems was no higher among those taking its medication than among those with flu.
back to top
Vietnam to purge cities of live poultry
Stepping into a cramped coop, Pham Tuyet Anh grabbed a squawking chicken with a gloved hand and stuffed it inside a burlap bag soon filled with 15 other chickens. Dragging the bag down a dirt street to a collection point, Anh threw it beside a pile of other squirming sacks.
A veterinary officer for the commune of Tran Phu on the outskirts of the capital, Anh is on the front lines of Vietnam's ambitious plan to purge the country's two biggest cities - Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi - of all live poultry by next week to slow the spread of bird flu before winter, when the virus has typically been deadliest.
"Everyone is cooperating," said Anh, clad in a blue surgical gown, gloves, mask, and a hairnet. "They understand that the public's health is more important."
Vietnam has been struggling to contain the H5N1 bird flu virus, which has killed at least 64 people in Southeast Asia since 2003, most of them in Vietnam. Millions of birds have died or been slaughtered as the virus spread from Asia to Europe.
International health experts have warned the bird flu virus could mutate into a form easily spread among humans, igniting a global pandemic. So far, most human cases have been traced to contact with infected birds.
Vietnam has gotten increasingly tough with its measures against bird flu as the world's attention has turned to Asia, where millions of backyard farms allow poultry and people to easily mingle.
In the capital of Hanoi, animal health workers have been going door to door in the city's nine urban districts to search for live poultry, registering owners' names and how many birds they have.
This week, all poultry owners are required to bring their chickens, ducks and geese to an ad hoc collection point, where they will be bundled into trucks and sent off to be destroyed.
The government is paying $1 per bird - about half the market price for a chicken and ducks and only a fraction of what geese are worth.
For farmers faced with a ban on poultry sales in the city and the new directive to destroy their poultry or face an undetermined fine, there is little choice.
Clutching two burlap sacks full of squealing chickens, a barefoot Luong Van Thanh walked up the dirt road and reluctantly turned over his bounty to animal health officers, who threw them on a pile of other rustling bags.
"I would sell them but no one dares eat it. Before, I could get 30,000 dong ($2) for one but now we have to accept the government's instruction on this," said Thanh, 51, who turned over all of his 50 chickens.
All morning, animal health workers, clad in rubber boots and surgical scrubs, received bag after bag of poultry. More than 14,000 poultry have already been collected and destroyed in the commune, Anh said.
Throughout the day, public loudspeakers reminded residents to surrender their poultry. In small neighborhood outdoor markets, prices for beef, pork and seafood had risen as much as 10 percent with no chicken or eggs available, according to local media reports.
For the most part, villagers like Nguyen Ba Tich seemed resigned to the hardships of losing poultry that help supplement their often meager incomes.
Carrying his 70 geese on a traditional "ganh," a wooden pole slung over his shoulders with bags tied at both ends, Tich, 58, said his birds could have sold for $450 during the Lunar New Year, or Tet. But instead they brought about $66.
"Of course it will be difficult for my family," he said. "We were planning to sell these geese for Tet. But what else can we do? We must sacrifice."
back to top
Bird flu kills girl but spares brother in new outbreak
CHINA announced its first three cases of human bird flu yesterday, and officials went out of their way to demonstrate the drastic measures they were implementing to try to prevent the spread of the deadly virus.
The Health Ministry gave few details in its brief report on the first human cases of the disease in the world’s most populous nation.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has been helping Chinese officials to investigate two cases in central Hunan province, where a girl died of pneumonia and her brother survived. Both had initially tested negative, officials said. The third case was in neighbouring Anhui province and had not been reported previously.
He Junyao, 9, is recovering in hospital in central China after receiving treatment for bird flu. Qi Xiaoqiu, the director of disease control for the Health Ministry, said: “During the early stage, antibodies were not found, but now the boy is positive. The WHO has a set of procedures to confirm a case, and it usually takes two laboratories to confirm.”
The boy, from Hunan province, fell ill last month, at about the same time that his sister, He Yin, 12, died from bird flu-like symptoms. The children were sickened by eating one of their family’s ducks, which had been found dead. The girl had a fever and a cough the day after the duck was served. Her father said that she became weak and pale, and doctors said that she died of a lung infection six days later. The family has spent about £700 on their children’s treatment.
In Liaoning, the worst-hit province, officials said that they had vaccinated 320 million poultry and slaughtered 15 million. Daily checks are being carried out on 72,000 people, and six are in hospital for observation. More than a million people, including soldiers, have been drafted in to work on bird flu prevention. Four of China’s nine outbreaks of the H5N1 virus have happened in the province.
Feng Xiao, whose chickens were the first in Taian village, in Heishan county, to die of the virus, said: “I was very frightened. Some of my chickens were sick when I fed them in the morning, and when I came back after lunch they were dead. I knew it must be bird flu because trucks go down the streets every day broadcasting warnings.” Within hours his 3,800 birds had been burnt. Two days later all 160,000 poultry in the village were destroyed. Villagers, speaking under the gaze of nervous officials, said that they were happy with their compensation of 70p a chicken, even though they could earn twice as much in the market. “We have faith in the party and the Government,” Mr Feng said.
Police roadblocks had been set up on all roads leading to Heishan county. Vehicles had to drive over corn straw matting, where they stopped to be sprayed with disinfectant. Carpets of lime surrounded the village. Officials acknowledged that they had run into opposition to the cull, despite the offer of compensation. Zhou Liyuan, a spokesman for Liaoning province, said: “The masses did not understand why we had to kill their chickens, and some had strong opinions.”
No chicken survives within a three-mile radius of the outbreaks. “You can’t even hear a cock crow,” Zhao Wenxiang, a Taian villager, said. Officials said that they were confident that one woman in hospital for pneumonia would not test positive for bird flu.
The spectre of bird flu spreading to humans has prompted more openness on the part of China, especially after the furore when it emerged that some officials had tried to conceal the outbreak of Sars two years ago. “The virus is mutating, and mutating very quickly,” Zhao Zhuo, the director of the provincial centre for disease control and prevention, said. “And it is becoming more virulent.”
back to top
53 birds died at bird flu centre
More than 50 birds imported from Taiwan were the most likely source of a bird flu outbreak at a UK quarantine centre last month, an official report said today.
The study, published by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), said a consignment of 101 Taiwanese mesia birds had been the most likely source of the outbreak of the deadly H5N1 strain at Pegasus Birds, in Essex.
It said it was impossible to say how many of the 53 birds killed in the outbreak had died of H5N1 because tissue samples from one of the finch-like birds had been pooled with those of a blue headed parrot from Surinam, South America.
Initial reports following the outbreak indicated that the parrot had introduced the virus, but today's report said these appear to have been incorrect and that the "balance of probabilities" was that the infection had been brought in by the mesias.
The study added that the bird flu - of a type most commonly associated with Chinese ducks - had been passed between the mesias, but said there was no evidence of its transmission to other species in the quarantine centre.
Debby Reynolds, the government's chief veterinary officer, said the apparent lack of transmission between species would be of "particular interest to the international community", and described the new study, carried out by the National Emergency Epidemiology Group, as "important".
Oliver Letwin, the Conservative environment spokesman, criticised the government over the confusion continuing to surround the outbreak.
"This is yet another worrying indication that confusion reigns," Mr Letwin said. "It is now clear that the original reports of what went on at Pegasus Birds were misleading, yet we still have no answers on the crucial questions - which birds, if any, were released that could have been infected, and what has happened to these since?
"Until these questions are answered, no one can be confident that Defra has the situation under control."
Scientists fear H5N1 - which has killed more than 60 people in Asia and devastated poultry stocks - may mutate into a virus that could pass flu between humans, potentially killing millions of people around the world.
A Defra spokesman said all the cases at the Essex centre had been contained within the quarantine area, adding that there had been no threat to Britain's bird flu-free status.
Last month, the environment secretary, Margaret Beckett, said 15 consignments of birds remained in quarantine at the facility, and that their release would be assessed on a "case by case basis".
Today, in a written parliamentary statement, she said the new report would be "fed into the independent review of avian quarantine procedures I announced on 31 October".
The review is being led by Professor Nigel Dimmock, Emeritus Professor of Virology at Warwick University.
The EU has imposed a temporary ban on the import of captive live birds from other countries because of fears over bird flu. European countries including Sweden, Greece and Croatia have reported H5N1 cases.
UK government officials have imposed regulations banning bird fairs, markets and shows unless risk assessments reveal they can go ahead safely.
back to top
First case of bird flu found in Kuwait
A flamingo found on a Kuwaiti beach had the strain of bird flu that has devastated poultry stocks and killed more than 60 people in Asia -- the first known case of the deadly bird flu in the Arab world.
Also Friday, Thailand reported an 18-month-old boy was suffering from bird flu, and China reported two new outbreaks in poultry.
Mohammed al-Mihana of Kuwait's Public Authority for Agriculture and Fisheries said tests showed the flamingo had the deadly H5N1 flu strain, while a second bird -- an imported falcon that had been quarantined at an airport -- had the milder H5N2 variant. Officials said there was no indication bird flu had spread to humans and they saw no need to slaughter domestic bird stocks. Poultry and eggs from local farms were free of the disease, they said.
Al-Mihana said teams would continue to fumigate farms and bird markets and are checking places where birds stop on their migration from Asia to Africa.
The H5N1 strain has generated fears of a pandemic if it mutates into a form transmissible among humans. So far, humans have caught the virus only from infected birds.
The ailing Thai toddler was recovering in a hospital. His family's house in a Bangkok suburb was home to three fighting cocks and a chicken, Dr. Thawat Suntarajarn said.
Twenty-one people in Thailand have caught bird flu, and 13 have died.
back to top
Cat deaths not related with bird flu in Liaoning
Thirty cats kept by local farmers died suddenly in a bird flu-hit county in northeast China's Liaoning Province, but experts found the deaths were not related with bird flu infection.
The information was released overnig
ht by Liaoning provincial animal health supervision department.
The cat deaths occurred between Oct. 25 and Nov. 9 at Gangtai Village in Badaohao Township in the bird flu-hit Heishan County.
The experts checked 82 cats still alive and the 30 dead ones in the village, and found no bird flu virus on them.
Experts suspect the cats might be poisoned to death.
Local farmers in Badaohao Township found some chickens dying and China's Ministry of Agriculture confirmed the case as H5N1 bird flu in early November.
The county has since culled six million poultry within a radius of three kilometers from the epidemic site.
back to top
Bird flu panic sparks Swedish flu drugs sales surge
Panic over a possible influenza pandemic linked to the spread of bird flu caused a surge in prescriptions and sales of flu drugs and vaccines in Sweden last month, the state-run pharmacy chain said on Friday.
Apoteket, which has a monopoly on drugs sales, said in a statement that it sold 13,480 packs of the Tamiflu antiviral drug made by Swiss company Roche in October compared with just 78 in the same month of 2004.
"The attention surrounding bird flu in the media has caused unjustified concern among the public, and to a certain extent among doctors and others who give out prescriptions," Apoteket said in a statement.
"It is serious that prescriptions are being written for flu drugs when we do not have such an epidemic at all," it added.
The country would be able to cope with an epidemic if one broke out, but there could be delays in deliveries, it added.
Bird flu has killed at least 64 people in Asia since its outbreak in 2003 and migratory birds have spread it to some parts of Europe. No cases have so far been found in Sweden.
Sweden's biggest maker of flu vaccine, SBL Vaccin, said its shipments had risen 15 percent this year to 900,000 doses, three times the usual annual increase in the market for flu drugs.
"The flu vaccine is nearly finished. We shipped out the last of our stock today," SBL Chief Executive Bjorn Sjostrand said. "But there is still some left at clinics and at some retailers."
Sjostrand said that the firm, which supplies around 70 percent of flu vaccine in Sweden, usually saw demand taper off in late October but that this had not occurred this year.
"This year will be a new record year for flu vaccine in Sweden. By the end of October, sales already amounted to as much as was sold during the whole of last year."
back to top
First Vietnamese dies of bird flu virus H3N0 after world health experts work out steps to fight H5N1
After world health experts and officials set out key steps to halt the spread of H5N1 bird flu virus at a Geneva meeting on Wednesday, a 43-year-old Vietnamese died of infection of bird flu virus H3N0 on Thursday.
Tests by Vietnam's National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology showed that specimens from the man named Vu Van Nhat from the northern city Hai Phong, who died on Nov. 2 from respiratory failure, were positive to flu type A, subtype H3N0, local newspaper Pioneer reported
Nhat was admitted to a hospital on Nov. 1 after returning home from southern Vung Tau city. During his stay in the southern city, he ate poultry meat.
The hospital suspected that the patient was infected with flu type A, subtype H5N1. However, the tests concluded that he was infected with subtype H3N0 which is less dangerous than the subtype H5N1.
The new finding surfaced after the World Health Organization (WHO) said Wednesday one more case of human infection with H5N1 virus had been confirmed in Vietnam.
In Geneva, health experts unveiled a plan of 1 billion US dollars on Wednesday to halt the spread of bird flu.
The global action plan is aimed at rooting out bird flu among poultry and stopping it from spawning a human influenza pandemic.
More than 600 delegates from over 100 countries agreed there is an urgent need for financial and other resources for countries which have been affected by bird flu and those which are most at risk, and to identify and respond to a human pandemic the moment it emerges.
"The world recognizes that this is a major public health challenge," WHO Director-General Lee Jong-wook said in his conclusions to the three-day meeting.
Experts and officials set out key steps that must be taken in response to the threat of the H5N1 flu virus which is currently circulating in animals in Asia and has been identified in parts of Europe.
The steps included control at source in birds, surveillance, rapid containment, pandemic preparedness, integrated country plans, and communications.
David Nabarro, Senior UN System Coordinator for Avian and Human Influenza, said: "We must use all our assets and skills to the best effect, avoid duplication, share expertise, learn from our experiences and tune up our ways of working."
"We must focus on support for existing country mechanisms and provide integrated global joint plans, programs and monitoring," he added.
The meeting was co-organized by the WHO, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), and the World Bank. Participants also discussed key financing needs for countries in the short-, medium- and long-term.
According to an analysis presented by the World Bank, the needs of affected countries will potentially reach 1 billion US dollars over the next three years. This does not include financing for human or animal vaccine development, for antiviral medicines or for compensating farmers for loss of income due to animals which have been culled.
The meeting supported an urgent resource request for 35 million dollars to fund high-priority actions by the WHO, FAO and OIE over the next six months. Additionally, surveillance, control and preparedness work in countries requires urgent funding.
"Based on our work here in Geneva over the past three days, we now have a strong business plan to take to the donors financial conference in Beijing in mid-January," said James Adams, vice-president of the World Bank for Operations and head of the Bank's Avian Flu Taskforce.
The urgency of fighting bird flu was underlined after Indonesia reported on Wednesday what it confirmed would be the 65th death blamed on the H5N1 virus since late 2003.
The victim lived in an East Jakarta suburb near a bird market and had chickens and pet birds in her house. However, no evidence of contact with an infected bird has been established.
Czech chief sanitary officer Michael Vit said on Tuesday the republic will buy another influenza drug, Relenza, to enlarge its stockpile of medicine that could be used against bird flu, The Czech Republic has 600,000 doses of Tamiflu at present and it has ordered the delivery of another 600,000 doses next year.
The amount would be sufficient for 13 percent of the populations, Vit said.
Meanwhile Bulgaria, free of bird flu cases so far, will lift the ban on live birds and nearly all poultry products from Greece, where the outbreak of bird flu in last month has proved a false alarm.
Under a decree signed Tuesday by Bulgarian Agriculture Minister Nihat Kabil, the Balkan country will renew imports of live birds, eggs, poultry meat and poultry-related products that are proven to be virus-free.
Bulgaria has still kept bans on imports of poultry products from Romania, Turkey, Macedonia and Croatia.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has called on the nation to intensify efforts to fight bird flu as the country is facing a "very serious situation" in controlling the epidemic.
Bird flu has not been totally controlled in China and the danger of its spread still exists in some areas, the premier said during an inspection tour of the bird flu-hit Heishan County in northeast China's Liaoning Province on Tuesday.
He urged the local governments to pay great attention to the epidemic and focus on the prevention of the disease from jumping to humans, a task he said is "arduous."
back to top
Hungary kills 200 chickens in bird flu rehearsal
An outbreak of bird flu in Hungary would trigger the gassing of infected flocks and could cost hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation if it is not contained, according to a plan tested on Thursday.
"It is the economic damage that would be huge here. If one flock infected the other with the virus, then we would be suddenly talking billions (of forints in damages)," Hungary's Chief Veterinarian Miklos Suth told Reuters.
Suth was speaking after around 200 chickens were gassed in a rehearsal of the country's ability to deal with an outbreak of bird flu, which has killed more than 60 people in Asia and has now been spread to Hungary's neighbours, Romania and Croatia, by migrating birds.
Tetetlen in the east of the country is in one of Hungary's main poultry producing areas and is also close to the Hortobagy National Park, a key stop for migratory birds and declared by animal health authorities especially at risk for bird flu.
So far, despite scares, Hungary has not reported any instances of bird flu, but with a large poultry industry of in excess of 50 million birds and big exports of products like foie gras (duck liver pate) to France, Suth is unwilling to take any chances.
The prospect of a bird flu outbreak has already hit Hungarian poultry farmers hard and sales losses have fluctuated between 20 and 40 percent.
To reassure people that the authorities would be able to deal rapidly with an outbreak, the Hungarian Agriculture Ministry deployed a mobile unit to gas chickens as well as setting up operations in a farm building.
Vets then dissected a test bird for the cameras to simulate the search for bird flu in a potential emergency.
Only a healthy heart, internal organs and breast muscles emerged this time as the vets in protective overalls and masks cut the bird open with a pair of scissors.
But if they had found any suspicious symptoms, they would have sent a blood and faecal sample to labs for testing, triggering a lengthy epidemological investigation not unlike a criminal detective's work.
Authorities would look for any traces of the deadly substance that may have entered or left the premises recently, including checking all farm workers, their pets, trading partners, other vets and their stocks.
back to top
Poultry found dead in Saudi Arabia sent for tests
Veterinary authorities in Saudi Arabia were carrying out tests to determine whether poultry found dead in the kingdom were infected with the bird flu virus, the Al-Riyadh newspaper reported, quoting Saeed bin Misfir Al-Kahtani, director of the agriculture ministry office in Sarat Abida.
He said samples from the poultry at a farm in southwestern Saudi Arabia have been sent to the laboratory for tests.
However he said the move was 'a precautionary measure.'
'We do not suspect that it is bird flu, as it may be because of the cold weather according to the veterinary who described the case as common (flu) and not bird flu,' he said.
The daily said the owner of the farm in Sarat Abidah, Abdullah Mohammad Al-Rahila, had notified the authorities after some of the poultry 'started to cough, faint and then died' within three days.
Rahila and his family were admitted to hospital for medical check-up while authorities disinfected the site, it said.
On Oct 25, Saudi Arabia decided to ban live bird imports from Romania and Turkey where the deadly strain of H5N1 avian flu was detected.
Saudi Arabia also stopped imports from Iran which has also been listed because of the outbreak of an unspecified disease.
back to top
Greater efforts against bird flu urged
Chinese Vice-Premier Hui Liangyu on Sunday ordered all localities and departments to work harder to resolutely prevent the spread of bird flu epidemic and any human infection of the virus.
"We should concretely enhance our sense of urgency and responsibility in the prevention and control of the highly pathogenic bird flu," said Hui, who heads a national working team on the prevention and control of such disease, at a national television and telephone conference.
Hui said the disease has become the number one killer for China's poultry husbandry and a major threat to public health and security.
"We must be clear-headed about this, conduct scientific assessment and make ample preparations for it. We should by no means slacken our vigilance," said Hui.
He stressed the necessity to put the interests of the people first, give priorities to prevention, improve the contingency arrangements and implement a responsibility system in the work.
Hui listed several tasks that need to be done, including beefing up the monitoring, alert and forecast systems, improving contingency plans and arrangements, enhancing immunization, strengthening international exchanges and cooperation, and maintaining a sound market environment for healthy poultry and related products.
Meanwhile, efforts should be made to establish a prevention andcontrol mechanism with long-lasting effects, he said.
He added that funds for animal epidemic prevention should be increased, a team of grass-roots veterinarians should be well trained and maintained, research of the epidemic prevention and control technology should be enhanced, and vaccines and medicines should be prepared and stored up in advance.
"The mode of operation of the poultry husbandry should also be modified to ensure sustained and healthy development of the sector," said Hui.
China's Ministry of Health on Sunday gave a briefing on three pneumonia cases of unknown causes in Xiangtan County, central China's Hunan Province, where an H5N1 bird flu epidemic broke out recently.
"After conducting comprehensive analysis, experts said although the three cases are diagnosed as pneumonia of unknown causes at present, the possibility of human infection of the highly deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu cannot be ruled out," a spokesman for the ministry said.
back to top
To keep bird flu virus away, don't kiss your pet parrot
Feel like kissing your pet parrot? If you live in Hong Kong, don't. Got a hankering for duck blood pudding? If you're in Vietnam, it has probably been taken off the menu.
These precautions are some of the more unusual pronouncements made by officials in Asian nations as bird flu fears spread faster than the virus itself.
In the Philippines, officials announced that all athletes from bird flu-affected countries coming to Manila for the 23rd Southeast Asian Games this month will be banned from visiting aviaries and poultry farms-just in case this was on their itinerary. Health officials have expressed concern that the virus could be carried into the archipelago by means of the travelers' clothing or shoes.
In addition, visitors would be banned this year from going to Sagada to trap migratory birds at night using nets, after attracting the fowls with lanterns or small fires.
"Bird owners should not kiss their pets," Hong Kong's Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department said in a statement outlining measures people should take when handling their feathered friends.
On Tuesday, Vietnam banned the sale of duck blood pudding-a specialty appetizer that aficionados say is too much of a tradition to give up, although it's been blamed for passing bird flu to people.
"I still eat it. Not every day, but three or four times a week," said restaurant owner Pham Van Vinh. He sold up to 300 bowls of the cold, congealed treat every day before recent warnings scared away some customers.
Made from the raw blood of freshly slaughtered ducks or geese and mixed with boiled organs, the dish was linked to at least one bird flu death last year.
But Vietnam, which has been hardest hit by the H5N1 virus with more than 40 deaths, has also offered citizens and tourists a bit of comfort: Anyone who falls sick because of the virus will be treated in hospitals-free of charge.
China's largest city, Shanghai, also announced strict new policies to try to remain bird-flu free.
Shanghai officials said they would disinfect the shoe soles of all travelers arriving by land, sea or air, according to the official Xinhua News Agency. The report was unclear about how the sterilization would be done or how authorities planned to enforce such a measure on the millions of people entering the city by road each day.
Wild birds have been blamed for spreading bird flu across Asia and into Europe. The disease has ravaged Asian poultry stocks and killed at least 62 people in Southeast Asia. Health experts fear the virus will mutate into a form which could easily spread from person to person, possibly igniting a global outbreak that could kill millions. So far, most human cases have been traced to having had contact with birds.
Many Asian countries have declared a ban on poultry imports from affected countries. They have also increased their surveillance, including screening passengers at airports for fever or other flu-like symptoms.
Shoot it down
Some, like New Zealand, have announced plans to seal off all borders if human-to-human transmission is reported.
Last Friday, Hong Kong lawmaker Tommy Cheung proposed a solution to the legislature for stopping bird flu altogether: "Perhaps what we should do is give each person a gun, and when we see a migrant bird, we can just shoot it down, so Hong Kong would be a much safer place." AP
back to top
Signs of bird flu detected on Ibaraki chicken farm
Ibaraki Prefecture said Friday signs of avian flu were detected at a chicken farm in a second test and ordered a cull of around 180,000 birds there.
The Ibaraki government said an antibody test showed 80 sample chickens had all been exposed to the H5 strain of avian flu virus at the Aikeien farm in the town of Ibaraki. No active virus was found, the government said.
back to top
Doctors: Bird flu patient 'will survive'
Health authorities expressed confidence on Tuesday that Thailand's 20th bird flu patient - a 50-year-old Bangkok woman - would survive the deadly virus because she had received swift Tamiflu treatment.
"I guarantee this woman will not die," said Thawat Sunfrajan, director general of Thailand's Communicable Diseases Department. "I am 100-per-cent confident she will survive."
Lab tests confirmed Monday night that the woman, whose name has not been disclosed, had contracted bird flu while helping her husband clean up chicken droppings in a garden in suburban Nonthaburi.
The woman, upon developing avian-influenza symptoms, was sent to Siriraj Hospital in the capital where she was immediately treated with Tamiflu, the only known effective medicine against the deadly H5N1 virus.
"Tamiflu is not a cure, but if it is taken soon enough, it will halt the spread of the virus," Dr Tawat said. He said Thailand has a stockpile of 1 million Tamiflu doses, enough to treat 100,000 patients.
Thailand has had 20 confirmed cases of humans contracting bird flu from poultry, of whom 13 have died.
Tawat said Thailand was ready to produce Tamiflu locally under licence from Roche, the Swiss manufacturer of the drug.
The government's Pharmaceutical Organization has also entered into a joint venture with China's Sinovac enterprise to produce a vaccine against human influenza, he said.
Although the vaccine would not stop the H5N1 virus, it would prevent all forms of human influenza, and, therefore, reduce the possibility of the bird-flu virus mutating into a form that could be transmitted from human to human, Tawat said.
"What the whole world is worried about is that this H5N1 will mutate into a human-to-human virus," he said.
back to top
Airport to quarantine passengers who show sign of bird flu
Starting Monday, travelers who show signs of illness may be quarantined at Honolulu International Airport.
The State Department of Transportation says if someone is showing symptoms of bird flu, they'll set up a makeshift quarantine station at a gate at the end of the terminal.
The station is operated by the Department of Health and Queen's Medical Center.
And the state is in negotiations with the federal government to build permanent quarantine rooms at the airport.
back to top
Feed grain exports feel bird flu impact
Fears of a bird flu pandemic are already having an impact on the nation's feed grain export markets.
The H5N1 strain of bird flu has killed humans and birds in Asia, and has been found in birds in parts of Europe.
David Syme, from Western Australia's Grain Pool, says many European consumers have stopped eating poultry products, leading to less demand for feed grain like lupins.
"The international grain buyers have reacted to that through this consumption drop and soy values have dropped, and of course lupin has fallen in line with that, so they have eased," he said.
"Yet it's still reasonably firm in Asia in terms of poultry feed in there. But as the US bean crops are coming off, those bean prices there are actually pressuring lupin prices in Asia so it's having quite an effect over two big marketing areas."
Meanwhile bird flu has been found in 33 migratory ducks in Canada.
But the Canadian Food Inspection Agency says the birds appeared healthy and it is unlikely they are carrying the deadly virus strain.
back to top
Romania reports two new cases of bird flu
Romania reported Monday two new cases of bird flu in a swan and a goose in the southeast of the country.
The dead goose was discovered in the county of Constanta three weeks ago while the swan was found dead on a lake of Danube delta in the county of Tulcea.
They tested positive for the H5 subtype of bird flu, the health department of Bucharest confirmed on Monday, but further tests are required to determine if they were killed by the deadly H5N1 strain.
The dead goose, which was sent to Bucharest for test after being discovered near the village of Vadu Oii, is an isolated case, said the chief of the health department of Constanta.
However, the local government launched immediately various preventive measures, including disinfecting the area, vaccinating 3,000 poultries in Vadu Oii against bird flu as well as giving flu vaccine injections to local residents.
Romania is the first European nation to report bird flu cases.
An international expert laboratory in Britain has detected the deadly H5N1 strain, which killed at least 62 people in Asia, in villages of Ceamurlia de Jos and Maliuc in Constanta since Oct. 7.
No human case of bird flu has been reported yet in Romania.