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Bird Flu Continues to Spread Through Europe

Bird flu continues to spread across Europe, with reports of the first deadly strain of the virus in Poland, and cats in Austria also testing positive for the disease.

A top agricultural official in Austria said Monday that at least two or three cats had tested positive for the H5N1 strain of bird flu. The announcement follows a similar case of bird flu in a cat in Germany. The new reports are sparking a new panic among pet owners, as authorities are calling for cats to stay indoors in certain areas. That includes parts of France, even though no cat has tested positive for the strain of bird flu to date.

Meanwhile, new reports of bird flu have surfaced in new parts of Europe. Poland confirmed Monday its first case of the H5N1 strain in two dead swans. The virus has spread to 15 new countries in Europe and parts of Africa in just a month.

In France, where Europe's first case of bird flu was recently reported among domestic animals, bird flu has spread to a new part of the country. Officials announced one wild swan tested positive for the virus in the southern Bouches du Rhone region. Until now, all reported cases have been in east-central France.

Monique Eloit, head of France's General Directorate of Food program, said that the swan had been found dead last week. She said that results from France's national laboratory showed the swan had carried the H5N1 strain. As with other areas where bird flu has been detected, the government has put in place protection and surveillance zones in the region.

In an interview in France's Liberation newspaper, the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization's general director, Jacques Diouf, criticized rich nations for their lack of foresight and solidarity in dealing with bird flu. He said many developed countries assumed the virus would remain confined to Asia, and that the risks of an epidemic were exaggerated.