Bird flu hits another mammal species in Germany

10th March 2006, Comments 0 comments

10 March 2006, BERLIN - A second kind of mammal has been infected with the feared H5N1 strain of bird flu in Germany, officials said Thursday.

10 March 2006

BERLIN - A second kind of mammal has been infected with the feared H5N1 strain of bird flu in Germany, officials said Thursday.

The virus was detected in a marten, an animal related to the weasel, the Friedrich Loeffler Institute said.

The animal was found on March 2 on the Baltic Sea island of Ruegen where Germany's first cases of avian flu surfaced last month in wild birds and spread to three cats.

The marten was found in the same area where the cats lived. Veterinarians suspect the mammals contracted the virus by eating dead or infected birds because they go after the same kind of prey.

It was the world's first known infection of a marten, which has a slender body and bushy tail and is usually found in northern forests.

The Friedrich Loeffler Institute is investigating whether the virus has mutated, making it easier to spread from one animal species to another.

The bird flu outbreak in Germany has so far affected 180 wild birds in addition to the three cats and the marten.

The infections prompted the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization to advise cat owners in countries hit by bird flu to keep their pets indoors.

Although it is not known to transmit between humans, researchers admit H5N1 may mutate into such a form, sparking a human pandemic.

Bird flu infected at least 33 people in the first two months of this year, killing 20 of them, according to the World Health Organization.

DPA

Subject: German news

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