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2,600 birds dead of bird flu in China
Updated: 2005-10-20 08:19

Russian authorities detected a deadly strain of bird flu south of Moscow on Wednesday and China reported a fresh outbreak in its northern grasslands -- signs the deadly virus was spreading across Siberia to the Mediterranean along the pathways of migratory birds.

A member of Greece's Health Organisation carries a dead turkey outside a farm where a flu-infected bird was found on Monday, on the Aegean island of Oinouses. Russia, [AFP]
A member of Greece's Health Organisation carries a dead turkey outside a farm where a flu-infected bird was found on Monday, on the Aegean island of Oinouses. Russia, [AFP]
The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization warned of a marked increase in chances that bird flu would move to the Middle East and Africa -- and hit countries poorly equipped to deal with an outbreak. The European Union announced plans for an exercise simulating a human flu pandemic to improve readiness in case the bird virus mutates to form a strain transmissible among people.

The dead birds in China were found in a breeding facility in Tengjiaying, a village near Hohhot, the capital of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, the Xinhua news agency reported. They were infected by the deadly H5N1 strain of the virus, Xinhua said. It did not give any further details.

"The epidemic is under control," Xinhua said.

The H5N1 strain was detected in Siberia in July. Migratory birds flying over the region from elsewhere in Asia were blamed for the outbreak, and the virus had been registered in six districts in Siberia and the Urals region.

Preliminary genetic tests now have found an H5N1 flu virus in samples of birds taken from a village south of Moscow, the Russian Agriculture Ministry said. Further tests are needed to confirm the finding and determine whether the H5N1 strain is the same one that has devastated flocks in Asia since 2003.

If so, it would mark the first appearance of the virus in European Russia, west of the Ural Mountains.

Officials said 220 of 3,000 domestic birds in the village of Yandovka had died. Birds on the six affected farms were being destroyed, and local officials have decided to kill all poultry in the village. In addition, a quarantine was established around Yandovka. Villagers were prohibited from leaving except in emergencies.

More than 200,000 people in the region were given standard flu vaccinations, the ITAR-Tass news agency said. Such shots are given to prevent normal flu so that if the person gets infected with the bird virus, there is no human flu strain inside the body to mix with and create a dangerous hybrid.

The H5N1 strain of bird flu has killed 60 people in Asia, but no one in Russia has been diagnosed with it, officials said. Most human cases have been traced to direct contact with infected birds, but scientists fear the virus will mutate into a form that can spread from person to person, possibly killing millions.
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