Avian flu continues to spread in Germany
21 February 2006, BERLIN - The number of dead birds found with the lethal H5N1 strain of avian flu rose to 103 in north-east Germany on Tuesday as bad weather grounded air force jets helping to combat the outbreak.
21 February 2006
BERLIN - The number of dead birds found with the lethal H5N1 strain of avian flu rose to 103 in north-east Germany on Tuesday as bad weather grounded air force jets helping to combat the outbreak.
All but two of the birds were found on the Baltic Sea island of Ruegen where an army of volunteers and 270 German troops have been collecting the carcasses of dead animals.
Some 18 swans and three geese were the latest victims, according to the Institute for Animal Health in Riems, which put forward the theory that the virus might have been spread by swans from Russia.
A state of emergency was in force on Ruegen and the northern tip of the state of Mecklenberg-West Pomerania, where two infected birds were found, allowing the armed forces to be called into action.
Low-lying cloud forced the air force to cancel a Tornado flight designed to collect data on areas harbouring large numbers of dead birds in order to assist the collection process.
A precautionary cull of animals at Ruegen poultry farms had reached 2,865 by Tuesday, although there were no cases of the virus spreading to poultry.
Cars leaving the island were being disinfected by an army decontamination unit sent to Ruegen over the weekend to contain the spread of the H5N1 virus, which has claimed the lives of at least 90 people since it was first detected in South-East Asia in mid-2003.
Officials say that several hundred migratory birds regularly die on the island, often as a result of hunger, after they return following winter.
A spokesman for the Institute for Animal Health in Riems said the virus could have been carried by a breed of whooper swan from northern Russia.
These swans usually migrate between countries in northern Europe and areas close to the Arctic Circle.
Health and agriculture officials have warned the public not to touch any dead animals because of the risk of infection to humans through direct contact with infected birds and bird carcasses.
German Agriculture Minister Horst Seehofer said it was important to stop the virus spreading from wild birds to domestic poultry.
Politicians said the outbreak would not endanger the football World Cup taking place in Germany from June 9 to July 9.
Economics Minister Michael Glos urged people to remain calm and "not to create an impression of panic, which could have negative consequences on the World Cup."
A survey of 1,000 people conducted by the Emnid polling organisation showed that 83 per cent of those questioned were not afraid of the H5N1 virus spreading.
Subject: German news