Discovery of dead ducks heightens bird flu fears
14 February 2006, BRUSSELS — Bird flu fears heightened in Belgium on Tuesday as several dozen dead ducks were found in a nature area in the East Flemish municipality of Lebbeke.
14 February 2006
BRUSSELS — Bird flu fears heightened in Belgium on Tuesday as several dozen dead ducks were found in a nature area in the East Flemish municipality of Lebbeke.
A hiker discovered the lifeless bodies of the ducks on Monday and fire brigade authorities cleared the area of the corpses on Tuesday.
Tests are being conducted to determine whether the ducks were infected with the avian bird flu virus.
Experts from the Federal Food Agency have been dispatched to the area to determine the cause of the death.
However, due to the fact the birds were not migratory species, the chance of an infection with the dangerous H5N1 variant of the bird flu virus is much smaller.
The nature reserve has been closed to the public until the results of the tests are known.
Meanwhile, initial test results have indicated that a dead, domesticated swan found in Lommel in Limburg over the weekend was not infected with the avian flu virus.
The test was carried out by the Centre for Research in Veterinary Science and Agricultural Chemistry (CODA).
Three dead geese were also found along the Houtkaai in Brugge. However, tests were not conducted on these birds because geese are less sensitive to the avian flu virus than wild swans.
The federal food agency only conducts a test if five dead geese or ducks are found together.
Agency spokesman Pascal Houbaert said the discovery of the dead ducks in Lebbeke showed that every dead water bird must be treated with caution.
However, he also said it is not rare to find dead birds during the winter months.
The heightened sense of vigilance in Belgium is due primarily to the fact that the bird flu virus has been confirmed in EU states Greece and Italy.
It also appears likely that the avian virus has reached Austria, where two of the 21 dead birds found there in recent days were probably infected with the H5N1 strain dangerous to humans.
According to test results, there is a 70 percent chance that the H5N1 strain has reached Austria.
Consequently, Germany re-introduced a compulsory lock-up order for poultry on Monday and EU experts will decide later this week if the measures should be applied across the 25-nation bloc.
It had earlier been reported on Tuesday that Belgium was expected to re-introduce its compulsory lock-up order on 1 March in anticipation of the spring migratory season.
"Belgium is still busy with the designation of sensitive nature areas. We will publicise these later this week," spokesman Houbaert said.
[Copyright Expatica News 2006]
Subject: Belgian news