Bird flu under control, Romania assures Germany

13th January 2006, Comments 0 comments

13 January 2006, BERLIN - Romania has taken all necessary measures to prevent the spread of bird flu following an outbreak in the country last autumn, the country's agricultural minister Gheorghe Flutur said Friday.

13 January 2006

BERLIN - Romania has taken all necessary measures to prevent the spread of bird flu following an outbreak in the country last autumn, the country's agricultural minister Gheorghe Flutur said Friday.

"My message for the citizens of Germany is that bird flu in Romania is under control," said Flutur in a press conference at International Green Week food and farm fair in Berlin.

Romanian officials are continuously testing domestic poultry and pets for the disease, said Flutur, adding that a group of veterinary surgeons are keeping the whole affected area in Romania under constant monitoring.

The first cases of bird flu in Romania were found on October 7, 2005 and were confirmed to be the same lethal H5N1 strain which has caused the deaths of over 70 people in Asia and several recent deaths in Turkey.

At present humans can only contract the disease from contact with infected birds. However there are fears that human-to-human transmission could become possible if the virus mutates, possibly causing a global pandemic that would cost millions of lives.

Flutur said Romania has gained a great deal of experience and know-how in dealing with bird flu since the October 2005 outbreak.

"The important thing is to take measures immediately and radically carry them through," he said, emphasising that there has not yet been a single case of a human contracting the disease in Romania.

Flutur warned however that migratory birds would continue to cause problems.

There has also been extensive cooperation with Ukraine, Moldova and Bulgaria, he said, explaining that the area in Romania where bird flu appeared was very close to these countries.

Flutur said Romania - which is due to join the European Union by 2008 at the latest - was working very closely with Brussels and seeking to do so in a totally transparent manner.

"Our decision and our firm resolve is to join the E.U. on January 1, 2007," he said. The European Commission is due to make its recommendation on Romania's accession date in May 2006 based on whether the country is able to meet the bloc's standards.

"We want to fulfil all the targets and requirements that Brussels has given us," he said, explaining that in terms of agriculture this meant mainly institutional and structural reform.

Farm land is very fragmented in Romania, with around 4.5 million subsistence households with an average farm size of around 2 hectares. In addition the country has around 20,000 large-scale industrial farms. Flutur said that what was missing were medium-sized family farms.

"The policy of current government is to encourage the founding of family farms, without the agricultural proletariat," he said. Around 35 per cent of the Romanian labour force is involved with agriculture, compared with less than 3 per cent in Germany.

Progress was also being made in terms of food safety, he said. Last year more than 300 slaughterhouses and milk processing companies which did not meet E.U. standards were closed. The country is currently building eight border inspection posts for animal-based food that will be exported to the E.U.

"We want to guarantee food safety for both Romanian and E.U. citizens," he said.

DPA

Subject: German news

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