Belgium set to intensifyanti-bird flu measures
20 February 2006
BRUSSELS — Agricultural experts will meet Health Minister Rudy Demotte later on Monday to decide whether Belgium needs to impose additional anti-bird flu measures.
According to current planning, a compulsory lock-up order for poultry will come into effect on 1 March, but will only apply to risk areas.
However, the government’s influenza committee will discuss with Demotte and the Federal Food Agency on Monday whether additional measures should be imposed.
Agency spokesman Pascal Houbaert said the lock-up order could be expanded or introduced earlier than scheduled.
The Antwerp Zoo and animal park Planckendael will vaccinate this week 300 exotic birds to ward off a possible infection of the avian bird flu virus. The federal government has supplied the zoos with the vaccines.
Planckendael will start the vaccination programme on Monday, while the Antwerp Zoo will carry out the vaccinations on Wednesday and Thursday.
Only the birds housed in the open, such as storks, pelicans and ostriches, will be vaccinated because they pose the greatest danger. Birds that are in cages will not be given a vaccination.
Meanwhile, EU ministers will meet in Brussels on Monday to discuss how the poultry industry — which has been hard hit by rising bird flu fears — can be protected.
Italy and Greece especially requested the meeting. Sales of chicken in both countries have plummeted since the dangerous H5N1 variant of the bird flu virus surfaced within the EU.
And the virus is quickly spreading across the continent. France and Germany have confirmed cases of bird flu, which had earlier been found in Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Greece and Italy also.
“We are sympathetic to the situation, but in budgetary terms there is little that we can really do [for the poultry industry],” a spokesman for European Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel said.
[Copyright Expatica News 2006]
Subject: Belgian news