Germany sends 250 troops to bird flu-infected island
20 February 2006, BERLIN - Germany on Monday ordered 250 troops to the northern island of Ruegen where a virulent strain of bird flu has claimed the lives of 81 birds and begun to spread to the mainland.
20 February 2006
BERLIN - Germany on Monday ordered 250 troops to the northern island of Ruegen where a virulent strain of bird flu has claimed the lives of 81 birds and begun to spread to the mainland.
The soldiers will help volunteers collect dead birds on the Baltic Sea island, where a state of emergency has been in force since Sunday.
More than 700 dead birds have already been collected, but not all were affected by the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu, which can be caught by humans who have contact with infected birds.
Chancellor Angela Merkel visited the area on Sunday and pledged that her government would do everything in its power to prevent the virus spreading to domestic poultry.
First cases of the lethal strain were reported outside the island late Sunday in two birds found in the neighbouring state of Mecklenberg-West Pomerania.
The state's agriculture minister, Till Backhaus, ordered exclusion zones to be set up around the affected area as well as veterinary examinations of local poultry stocks.
An army unit specializing in decontamination was 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.
The troops were disinfecting vehicles and people leaving the island, where the sale and transport of poultry has been banned for 21 days.
On Sunday, a spokesman for Germany's poultry industry association expressed confidence that the outbreak could be contained. "We are worried but also confident that the virus will be stopped from spreading to poultry farms," said Thomas Janning.
Local officials have come under fire for their slow response to evidence that wild birds on Ruegen had been infected by the virus and failure to take steps to halt the spread of the disease.
Officials say that several hundred migratory birds regularly die on the island, often as a result of hunger, after they return following winter.
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 was in Brussels on Monday for talks with his counterparts from other European Union countries on ways to contain the outbreak.
Subject: German news