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EU Expands Anti-Bird Flu Measures

The European Union is taking steps it hopes will stop the spread of the dangerous bird flu virus from western Russia. Authorities there have ordered a mass slaughter of birds and implemented quarantine measures in a village south of Moscow. Meanwhile, another death blamed on bird flu has been confirmed in Thailand.

The EU says it has extended a ban on the importation of birds and feathers from most of Russia. EU spokesperson Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen spoke of Russian and EU efforts.

"The Russian veterinary services have implemented all necessary measures to avoid the spread of the disease," she said. "As far as the standing committee on the food chain and animal health meeting today is concerned, that committee this morning has endorsed the ban on pet birds and feathers from Siberia to cover the whole territory with the exception of Kaliningrad, Karelia, Murmansk and St. Petersburg."

The EU decision followed the discovery of the bird flu virus in the Russian village of Yandovka, several hundred kilometers south of Moscow. Residents reported sudden deaths among their domesticated fowl, prompting Russian authorities to impose a quarantine around the village and to destroy all chickens, ducks and geese in the area.

This is the first time that the bird flu virus has been detected in western Russia, prompting fears that the pathogen, believed to be carried from region to region by migratory birds, could spread to other parts of Europe.

Ms. Ahrenkilde Hansen said a preliminary test on a sample from a Greek island came back negative, but more tests were needed.

Elsewhere, officials in Thailand say, a 48-year-old farmer in the western part of the country has died after handling and eating diseased fowl. The man became Thailand's 13th confirmed human death from bird flu, which so far has shown a limited capacity to jump from birds to humans, but has yet to spread by human-to-human contact. At least 120 people have contracted the bird flu virus in southeast Asia in the past two years, resulting in at least 60 deaths in Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Indonesia.

In China, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Kong Quan said the spread of the bird flu within his nation appears to have been contained, after more than 90,000 birds were culled from a farm in Inner Mongolia, where thousands of chickens and ducks succumbed to the virus.

"After receiving a report of suspected bird flu in Inner-Mongolia, the Chinese Agriculture Ministry immediately sent a working team to guide the local prevention and control work," he said. "Local governments and sanitary organizations have also taken emergency measures to quarantine, seal or kill and disinfect in accordance to the regulations. Now the epidemic situation is under control and no new infection areas have been found."

While officials in individual nations touched by the bird flu virus trumpet aggressive measures taken to control the pathogen, the number of nations and regions dealing with the virus has continued to grow, with nations in Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere bracing for possible outbreaks among bird populations in the future.