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Europe on bird flu alert

European countries are increasing measures to prevent the spread of bird flu, following the discovery in Turkey of the H5N1 strain dangerous to humans.

The EU Commission has banned bird and poultry imports from Turkey and from Romania. Several nations have already stockpiled anti-viral drugs, while others have tried to stop birds becoming infected.

Scientists fear that if a person were to be infected with normal flu at the same time as bird flu, the avian virus could mutate to allow easy human-to-human transmission.


Health authorities in Romania have reportedly placed orders for thousands of doses of anti-viral drugs.

More than 15,000 people in the Danube delta region, have already been vaccinated against the common flu.

Romanians were said to be flocking to pharmacies for flu jabs. Thousands of birds have been culled in the affected area.


The British government stockpiled millions of courses of the anti-influenza drug Tamiflu in March this year.

The drug is considered the most effective available against bird flu.

The UK also killed thousands of pheasants in July after an outbreak of Newcastle disease, an unrelated strain of avian flu.


The Dutch government decided last month to lift a ban on keeping birds outdoors.

The restriction, imposed in August, followed reports from the Russian government that bird flu was moving westward towards Europe.

The Netherlands, one of the world's biggest meat exporters, had to kill 25% of its poultry two years ago after an outbreak of bird flu.


Bulgaria has tightened border controls with neighbouring Turkey and Romania in an attempt to stop the spread of bird flu.

Tests on a number of wild birds found dead have not so far revealed the virus.


French ministers said in August they had ordered about 200 million protective masks and enough anti-viral drugs for everyone in France.

Checks at airports have also been stepped up.


Germany is tightening controls at borders and airports to try to prevent the spread of avian bird flu through illegal animal imports.

German ministers considered following the lead of the Netherlands and imposing a ban on keeping poultry outside.


Russia culled more than 100,000 birds in July after bird flu was found in the Novosibirsk region, in Siberia.

A case of H5N1 strain bird flu was found last October in a wild bird in Siberia prompting fears migratory birds could carry the virus from South-East Asia and Russia into the Balkans and Europe.


US President George W Bush has asked Congress to consider giving him powers to use the military to enforce quarantines in case of an avian influenza epidemic.

He said the military and perhaps the National Guard might be needed to take such a role if the feared H5N1 bird flu virus changes enough to cause widespread human infection.


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