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Europe Taking Precautions as Bird Flu Spreads


The feared spread of bird flu in Europe is slowly being confirmed. Croatian authorities are killing thousands of domestic birds. Sweden has confirmed a bird flu case in a duck. Tests are being carried out on a parrot that died in Britain. The Italian government has banned imports of live poultry and all meats and eggs from Croatia, Romania, and other Balkan countries. Britain has called for an urgent ban on all imports of wild birds into Europe.

Concern over the spread of bird flu in Europe continues to increase. A team of British scientists is traveling to southeast Asia to examine the spread of bird flu in that area, to see how the disease is monitored, and how countries can improve collaboration to tackle the problem.

The first case in Northern Europe has been confirmed. Swedish officials said one of four ducks found dead Friday in Eskilstuna, west of Stockholm had bird flu. They are trying to determine whether it was the H5N1 strain.

In Britain, tests are being carried out to see whether a parrot, imported from Surinam, which died while in quarantine had the H5N1 strain. To stem the spread, the British government is calling for an urgent ban on all imports of wild birds into Europe.

Germany has also said it would ask the European Union next week to ban all wild bird imports. The deadly H5N1 strain has already been found in Romania, Turkey, and Russia and is suspected in Greece. Samples from Macedonia are also being tested.

Migrating wild birds are spreading the virus. Croatia is along a major migratory route and authorities there are killing thousands of domestic birds. They have also ordered the disinfection of a large area near a national park where six swans were found dead from bird flu.

Croatia's neighbors have already taken measures. Bosnia has banned the import of poultry from Croatia and Slovenia has banned outdoor poultry breeding in one part of the country.

In Italy controls are being intensified to prevent a possible outbreak of bird flu among farm poultry and wild birds. Health minister Francesco Storace has banned imports of live poultry and of all meats and eggs from Croatia, Romania, and other Balkan countries.

The minister reassured Italians that the poultry they are eating is safe.

"I think we can tell citizens not to modify their food habits with respect to Italian poultry because it is controlled," he said.

Italian farmers have warned that poultry industry is at risk because of the alarmism over bird flu. More than half of Italian families have changed their food buying habits because of fears over bird flu and poultry consumption had plunged more than 30 percent.

Agriculture minister Gianni Alemanno has stressed that the Italian poultry industry is unbeatable for quality and safety and risks being brought to its knees all because of a phobia.

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