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Italy Issues Bird Flu Warning

  • Sabina Castelfranco

The arrival of bird flu in Italy is dominating the news and concerning the country's population. The Italian Health Ministry issued a warning to people not to touch dead birds, but to call the experts who will come equipped for their removal.

Responding to the discovery of the deadly H5N1 virus in swans in southern Italy, the government is warning people not to touch sick or dead wild birds, but to seek professional help.

The warning followed a meeting of the emergency response committee of veterinary experts and health officials at the Health Ministry. The meeting was held after five cases of bird flu were confirmed Saturday on Italian territory.

Health Minister Francesco Storace said it is important not to touch the dead animals.

The health minister said touching dead birds is not necessary. If one is found, it should be reported to the health authorities. Equipped staff, he said, will then be responsible for the removal of the dead bird.

Health authorities say there is no danger of getting the virus by eating poultry and eggs that had been cooked. They also said the outbreak posed no immediate threat to people nor to domesticated bird flocks, because only wild birds had been infected.

The infected wild swans were discovered in three southern Italian regions of Puglia, Calabria and Sicily. New cases of dead birds are being reported, but no further cases of bird flu have been confirmed.

The Italian authorities have taken a series of precautionary measures including the creation of a three-kilometer high-risk, protection zone around each outbreak area, and a surveillance zone of an additional seven kilometers.

Testing is being carried out on samples of domestic birds inside the protection zone and any birds that are infected with the H5N1 strain or suspected of being infected will be killed.

Hunting wild birds has been banned in both zones, and poultry cannot be moved out of the surveillance zone.

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