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Bird flu found in Britain, Croatia
Updated: 2005-10-22 09:08

The global battle against outbreaks of bird flu expanded as officials confirmed cases of the virus in a parrot in British guarantine and among swans at a Croatian lake, heightening fears that the disease was spreading through Europe.

A parrot that died in quarantine in Britain tested positive for the H5 strain of the bird flu virus. The bird imported from South America arrived in Britain last month and had been held with a consignment of birds from Taiwan, officials at the British agriculture ministry said.

Chief Veterinary Officer Debby Reynolds did not want to speculate whether the bird could have had the lethal H5N1 strain, which has killed more than 60 people in Asia since 2003. That strain has recently spread into Turkey and Romania, which also reported a new suspected case on Friday.

"We do know it is a highly pathogenic form, but we don't have the formal, official confirmation of the N-type," Reynolds told a press conference.

An Ara Ararauna parrot.
An Ara Ararauna parrot.[AFP/file]
Croatia also said further tests were needed to determine if the virus detected in the dead swans was the H5N1 strain, feared to be the precursor of a human pandemic that could kill millions.

"According to samples from organs of six of the swans which were sent on October 19 to Zagreb, we have isolated the virus, an H5 sub-type," Croatian Agriculture Minister Neven Ljubicic told journalists.

The swans were found in the lake at Zdenci in the east of the Balkan country, which is one of 20 sites Croatian veterinary services have put under heightened surveillance as part of a huge operation to take samples from wild birds.

A Croatian expert on migratory birds, Dragan Radovic, said that the dead swans did not come from Romania or Turkey, but that they could have come from someplace in Europe or Britain passing through Ukraine all the way to western Russia.

A chicken looks out from a cage at a chicken market in Beijing October 22, 2005.
A chicken looks out from a cage at a chicken market in Beijing October 22, 2005. [Reuters]
The European Commission last Friday also confirmed the Croatian bird flu cases and said it would adopt an urgent measure on Monday to ban the import of live poultry and poultry products from Croatia.

Russian vets have found bird flu in a village in the southern Urals where 31 birds died, an Emergencies Ministry official said on Saturday.

Authorities are also investigating another suspected outbreak in Russia's Altai region.

"Bird flu was found in six samples and today local authorities will decide what is to be done," the ministry official said about the poultry in the southern Urals, which were discovered on Friday.

He also said bird flu was suspected in a village in the Altai region, close to the Kazakh border, where 59 birds died in the village of Pokrovka on Friday.

"A quarantine zone has been imposed, although we have only found anti bodies for bird flu in the preliminary tests. The final decision on whether it is bird flu and what will be done will only be taken on Monday," the official said.

There was no immediate comment on whether the birds had or were suspected of having the deadly H5N1 strain.

Moscow confirmed on Wednesday an outbreak of H5N1 in Russia's Tula region, some 200 km (125 miles) south of the Russian capital.
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