Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Avian Flu spreads....

Croatia confirms first cases of bird flu

ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) -- Croatia confirmed the country's first cases of bird flu Friday with six swans testing positive for the H5 type, the Agriculture Ministry said.

Twelve swans were found dead Thursday near a pond in the village of Zdenci in eastern Croatia.

It was not immediately clear if the remaining six had been tested or whether the confirmed cases had the deadly H5N1 strain, which has devastated poultry stocks across Asia and killed 60 people in the past two years. It has recently been found in birds in Russia, Turkey and Romania.

The pond has been closed, ministry spokesman Mladen Pavic said, adding that the closest village is a few miles) away.

The swans were tested at a veterinary clinic in the capital, Zagreb, and the samples will be sent for further testing to a lab in Britain, the ministry said.

The government held a special meeting, and Prime Minister Ivo Sanader confirmed the reports in a live broadcast on the independent Nova television station. He said the country would immediately impose EU measures, including a ban on distribution of poultry in the area and the closure of free-range poultry sites.

Sanader said that "all measures to contain the virus and its possible spread have been taken."

Croatia has been on high alert since the lethal strain was confirmed in nearby Romania, Turkey and Russia in recent days.

Earlier this week, the EU urged Croatia to step up testing as the 25-member bloc tries to manage a regional response to limit the spread of the virus.

H5N1 is easily transmitted between birds, but is hard for humans to contract. Experts are closely watching the disease, however, for fear it could mutate into a form easily transmitted between humans and spark a pandemic.

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