Expatica news

EU warning amid fears of bird flu pandemic

13 October 2005

BRUSSELS — EU states have been urged to stockpile anti-viral drugs after confirmation that the bird flu virus found in Turkey is the H5N1 strain dangerous to humans.

EU Health Commissioner Markos Kyprianou said the European Union should be ready for a potential flu pandemic, the BBC reported.

It came after tests on dead birds from Kiziksa, north-west Turkey, confirmed the H5N1 strain. An outbreak in Romania is assumed to be the same, the EU said.

The H5N1 strain has killed more than 60 people in Southeast Asia since 2003.

However, of those, only one is suspected to have died after catching the virus from another human.

Those who have been in the presence of dead or dying birds are most likely to become infected, and the chances of human-to-human transmission are still seen as very slim.

Kyprianou advised seasonal flu vaccination for populations considered to be at risk and said governments should focus on stockpiling anti-viral drugs.

“What is important is that it does become a priority for all member states and that they make an investment for preparing for this event,” he said.

Thousands of birds have already been culled in Turkey and Romania.

He said an emergency meeting would be held later on Thursday to discuss what measures to take.

The commissioner confirmed the virus found in Turkey was the deadly strain, adding: “There is a direct relationship with viruses found in Russia, Mongolia and China”.

“It is a highly pathogenic and aggressive virus and we in the European Union have to deal with that.”

The EU moved to ban all bird and poultry products from Romania on Thursday after tests on three ducks which died last week in the Danube delta confirmed the presence of the weaker H5 strain of bird flu.

Tests for the H5N1 strain are expected to be completed on the ducks this week.

The EU has also banned the export of live birds and feathers from Turkey, after the virus was discovered there. It announced on Wednesday the ban would be extended until April.
[Copyright Expatica News 2005]

Subject: Belgian news