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Europe grapples with bird flu issue
Updated: 2005-10-15 11:26

Senior veterinary officials from around the European Union agreed Friday on new measures aimed at preventing a lethal strain of bird flu from entering the bloc, a day after it was confirmed on the continent's doorstep in Turkey.

Europe grapples with bird flu issue
Romanian health workers throw bags of dead domestic birds into a pit before burning them in the eastern village of Ceamurlia de Jos, Romania, Friday, Oct. 14 2005. The European Union pledged financial aid to help Romania fight against the spread of bird flu, an EU official said Friday, after birds on the Danube Delta tested positive this week for a virus subtype. [AP]

The officials also moved to calm fears on a continent with vivid memories of mad cow disease, saying there was no reason to avoid cooked chicken because bird flu is killed in seconds when the meat is cooked.

The new measures, agreed upon after two days of emergency talks, focus on infection-control measures on farms and expanding early detection systems to high risk areas, such as wetlands frequented by wild birds, said a statement issued late Friday by the EU.

The EU has banned poultry imports from Turkey and Romania, where bird flu was also detected this week. Officials in the two countries destroyed more fowl on Friday.

In Turkey, Betul Demirel of Seker Pilic poultry company said the sector had come "close to a standstill" after people stopped eating poultry products. "There is an 80 percent decrease in sales," since the outbreak began, she said.

Turkish veterinary officials in protective plastic suits, masks and goggles were trying to catch the remaining birds in the village of Kiziksa, where the virus was detected, and to persuade villagers who were hiding their chickens to surrender the birds.

Officials carried out medical tests on nine people in a neighborhood where 40 pigeons reportedly died, but released them from medical observation Friday after determining they did not likely have bird flu.

EU health officials assured Europeans it was safe to eat poultry and that human infection with bird flu was rare. It was too early to determine whether there had been an impact on poultry consumption across the continent.

Preliminary tests found bird flu in a duck and a chicken from Romania, but definitive test results on whether it is the virulent H5N1 strain are not expected until Saturday at the earliest. The lethal strain, blamed for the deaths of 60 people in Asia, was confirmed in Turkey on Thursday.

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