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France Confirms First Case of Deadly Bird Flu Virus


French officials have confirmed the first case of the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu in their country. The virus was found in a wild duck in southeastern France.

France's agriculture minister confirmed Saturday that the dead duck found Monday near the city of Lyon tested positive for the H5N1 strain of avian flu.

French Agriculture Minister Dominique Bussereau stressed that the bird was wild, and that at this point, no poultry breeding farms have been affected.

France's announcement came as other countries struggled with outbreaks of the deadly strain.

Austria's Health Minister Maria Rauch-Kallat said Saturday that authorities suspect a dead swan found in the capital, Vienna, and a dead duck in a neighboring village also died of the deadly virus.

Last week, Austrian officials said preliminary tests indicated four wild swans found in a southern province probably died of the virus. Authorities have ordered all domestic poultry to be kept indoors to avoid contact with migrating and wild birds.

Meanwhile, India's Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar said several people are being tested for bird flu after that country confirmed its first outbreak of the deadly H5N1 virus.

"I have got a confirmation from them that there are seven or eight cases where symptoms of this particular disease is very much there," said Sharad Pawar.

Tens of thousands of chickens have died from bird flu in recent weeks in western India. Officials have begun culling thousands of birds within a three-kilometer radius of the poultry farm in the town of Navapur where the confirmed cases were detected.

Indonesia is also battling the virus, and officials there confirmed the latest bird flu death in a 23-year-old man.

Also Saturday, Hong Kong officials said a dead magpie was infected with the deadly strain.

Health experts fear the virus could mutate into a form that could be easily passed among humans, leading to a global pandemic. World Health Organization figures put the human death toll at around 90 people since late 2003 - most of them in China and southeast Asia.

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