Vigilance, but no bird flu panic in Belgium

14th October 2005, Comments 0 comments

14 October 2005, BRUSSELS — Despite a warning that a large-scale bird flu pandemic could kill 50,000 people in Belgium, the Federal Food Agency has decided against taking preventative measures.

14 October 2005

BRUSSELS — Despite a warning that a large-scale bird flu pandemic could kill 50,000 people in Belgium, the Federal Food Agency has decided against taking preventative measures. 

"For the moment, there is no reason to panic now that the dangerous variant of bird flu is in Turkey, but obviously we are very vigilant," agency spokesman Pascal Houbaert said.

The FAVV said it will not take preventative measures for the time being. It is instead taking its lead from the EU, which is awaiting advice from national veterinary experts who met on Thursday and will meet again on Friday.

The EU has warned member states to stock up on anti-viral doses after confirmation the bird flu virus found in Turkey is the H5N1 strain dangerous to humans.

Pending the results of tests, the World Health Organisation said there is a high probability that poultry in Romania are also carrying the strain.

Previously taken preventative measures in Belgium remain in force. It is not obligatory to keep poultry indoors, but the FAVV has urged farmers in risk areas near the routes of migratory birds to impose the lock-up measure.

In Turkey and Romania meanwhile, thousands of people are buying anti-viral agents to ward off infection of the avian bird flu virus.

In the Belgian Senate, Health Minister Rudy Demotte said Belgium will soon have 400,000 of the doses available. By 2007, that will amount to 3 million.

And despite the fact the EU imposed a ban on poultry exports from Turkey and Romania, Demotte says this is not enough.

"The EU should take more initiative. Europe should prove they are able to give financial aid as well. If this doesn't happen, we are taking big risks," he said.

Leuven Catholic University virolgist Marc van Ranst has warned a bird flu virus pandemic could kill 50,000 people in Belgium.

However, he did not expect the virus to quickly make its way to Belgium, adding that it needs to mutate into a form transmissible from human to human to pose a great threat.

Should a pandemic occur, Van Ranst said 30 million deaths worldwide was a "realistic" figure. A pandemic is caused by a new virus not previously seen by humans.

Belgian veterinary and public health experts are currently discussing preventative measures and inspections at airports have been stepped up.

It is possible that chickens will in future be transported more quickly from farms to abattoirs to ward off a possible spread of bird flu to poultry by wild birds.

[Copyright Expatica News 2005]

Subject: Belgian news

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