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Tests Confirm Discovery of H5N1 Bird Flu Virus in Romania and Turkey


Concerns are mounting in Europe after lab tests confirmed that an outbreak of bird flu in Turkey and Romania is the same strain as the one that has killed 60 people in Asia. European poultry consumption is plunging, and citizens have been rushing to pharmacies to purchase flu vaccines and anti-viral drugs.

Europeans are becoming increasingly concerned that the H5N1 strain of bird flu, confirmed in Turkey and Romania, could spread to European Union countries, amid fears the virus strain could mutate into a form that can spread among humans.

Britain said Saturday that it would spend $3.5 million for new research into infectious diseases, including the bird flu virus.

Italy's health minister said his government would spare no resources in preparing for a possible pandemic.

Many people in Europe are losing their taste for chicken because of the bird flu scare. Experts say there is no reason to avoid eating cooked chicken, because the virus is killed in seconds when the meat is cooked, but such assurances are having little effect on consumers.

The Italian farmers union has said poultry consumption has plunged by a third, while the price of chicken has slumped 40 percent.

One survey said more than half of Italian families have changed their food buying habits because of the alarm. The chairman of the farmers union said Italy's poultry industry is at risk because of what he called an irrational psychological effect.

Italian poultry farmers hope their situation will improve when labels specifying the country of origin of the product become compulsory next week.

As concerns mount that bird flu could also spread to humans, many citizens have been rushing to their local pharmacies to buy anti-viral drugs, particularly Tamiflu, which is the main drug governments are stockpiling as a defense against the virus.

This pharmacist says people come continuously requesting this drug, these days but pharmacies don't have it, because stocks have run out.

In Greece, the Health Ministry issued a public appeal against panic-induced shopping for vaccines. Italy's health minister also told citizens on Saturday that there is no need for a rush on pharmacies.

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