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Bird Flu - Archives


Bird Flu Coming Back?
Bird flu could hit Europe again this winter:

Bird flu may return to Europe in the coming weeks, spread by wild ducks, swans and geese carrying the lethal virus south from their Arctic mating grounds.

Twenty-six European nations reported initial infections of the H5N1 avian influenza strain in poultry or wild birds in late 2005 and early 2006 after a severe winter in Russia and the Caucasus area pushed migratory birds south and westward. The Food and Agriculture Organization said a resurgence of H5N1 in China and Russia indicates the pattern may be repeated.

``It is possible that a similar situation could occur in the approaching weeks with the migratory movement of wild birds from their northern breeding grounds,'' the United Nations agency said in the October edition of a newsletter published on its Web site. ``Eastern Europe and Caucasus region is at particularly high risk'' because of the higher density of backyard poultry there.

October 26th, 2006


Bird Flu - Get Used to It
Reuters reports:

Europeans should get used to a seasonal pattern of bird flu affecting poultry as the lethal H5N1 strain of the disease is highly likely to reappear in the near future, a senior EU health official said on Friday.

Meanwhile, bird flu is confirmed in Spain.
July 8th, 2006


Europe – Where’s the Bird Flu?

The New York Times, in a lengthy report, notices that – contrary to many expectations - migrating birds have not brought the bird flu virus to Europe this year.


International health officials had feared that the disease was likely to spread to Africa during the winter migration and return to Europe with a vengeance during the reverse migration this spring. That has not happened…


"It is quiet now in terms of cases, which is contrary to what many people had expected," said Ward Hagemeijer, an avian influenza specialist with Wetlands International, an environmental group based in the Netherlands that studies migratory birds.


In thousands of samples collected in Africa this winter, H5N1 was not detected in a single wild bird, officials and scientists said. In Europe, there have been only a handful of cases detected in wild birds since April 1, at the height of the northward migration.


The number of cases in Europe has decreased so dramatically compared to February, when dozens of new cases were found daily, that experts believe the northward spring migration played no role. There was one grebe in Denmark on April 28 — the last case — as well as a falcon in Germany and a few swans in France, according to the World Organization for Animal Health, based in Paris.


…"Is it like Y2K, where also nothing happened?" asked Juan Lubroth, a senior veterinary official at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome, referring to the expected computer failures as the year 1999 turned to 2000. "Perhaps it is because it was not as bad as we feared, or perhaps it is because people took the right measures."


Still, he and others say, the lack of wild bird cases in Europe only underscores how little is understood about the virus.

May 11th, 2006


Foie Gras – an Endangered Species

It’s not just regular poultry sales that are being hurt by the European bird flu outbreak. Associated Press reports that foie gras and duck a l’orange are among the delicacies that are also suffering.

March 9th, 2006


Three More Cats
Europe went into a panic when a cat in Germany was found to have bird flu. What’s going to happen now that three cats in Austria are also found to have the disease? And Poland confirms that H5N1 has arrived.
March 7th, 2006


Bird Flu Hits European Poultry Farmers

Forty million Euros ($48 million) per month – that’s what the new bird flu panic is costing the French poultry industry. The BBC reports that other European countries are also suffering:


Germany's poultry industry has seen demand drop 20% due to bird flu.


It estimates that the sector has lost more than 140m euros since last autumn.


In Hungary, poultry producers said their sales had also fallen by 20% since the deadly H5N1 virus was first found there in dead swans on 21 February.


The overall European poultry industry has a turnover of about 20bn euros each year, producing 11 million tonnes of meat.


It employs more than 500,000 people.

March 4th, 2006


Cat Panic

The death of a cat in Germany from bird flu has sparked panic among cat owners in Europe. In Germany, owners of cats near infected areas have been ordered to keep them indoors, and dogs are to be kept on leashes. The German animal welfare society reports that hundreds of cat owners have dumped their pets. Greek health authorities are advising cat owners living near wetlands to keep their pet indoors. The French animal protection society, SPA, has been “bombarded with calls” from panic-stricken cat owners, some of whom have dumped their pets.


We are getting calls from cat owners wanting to know if there are risks," said Serge Belais, the society's president. "People are panicking."


He had no numbers of abandoned cats but said: "The risk is that we'll see the deluge in the days or weeks to come."


…Mr Belais said the SPA was urging the government to stop French mayors over-reacting with "disproportionate and useless" operations to round up and destroy stray cats. The risk of infection was minimal but he advised owners to keep cats indoors.

March 3rd, 2006


11 Of 12 Indian Bird Flu Suspects Cleared; But EU Trembles

Reuters reports that Indian authorities have cleared 11 of the 12 people who were quarantined following the country’s H5N1 outbreak.


However, the same report talks of great nervousness in France and Germany, where authorities are awaiting the results of tests of suspected H5N1 at poultry farms.


Poultry producers in France have estimated a 30 percent fall in sales due to bird flu has cost them 130 million euros since November and the government announced the sector would receive 52 million euros in aid to deal with the crisis.


No EU farm birds have yet been confirmed to have the virus but health experts, including at the WHO and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, say it is almost inevitable the virus will spread from wild birds to poultry flocks.


Europe is preparing for more cases of H5N1 as the spring migration season approaches and new species, possibly already infected, arrive from Africa, EU Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner Markos Kyprianou told Reuters.


"It's a concern, because now we have the virus in Africa. Spring migration of birds coming from the south to Europe poses a risk," Kyprianou said.

February 24th, 2006


Emergency Measures

The discovery of bird flu in five EU countries - Greece, Italy, Slovenia, Austria and Germany – has triggered emergency measures, reports The Scotsman.


They involve a halt to poultry movements in the affected region, the setting up of a three-kilometre (1.8 mile) protection zone around the area where the swans were found, and a surrounding "surveillance zone" a further seven kilometres (4.3 miles) deep.


Experts on the EU's Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health will begin two days of talks to see what further steps, if any, can be taken to control a disease being spread by migratory birds.

February 16th, 2006


Europe Good, Africa Bad?

There’s quite a strong case to be made that the discovery of bird flu in Italy and Greece is a good thing. The reason? Given bird migration patterns, it was pretty inevitable that H5N1 would arrive in Western Europe, and its quick detection shows that systems are working to protect farmers, consumers and the general population.


In contrast, the discovery of the flu in Nigeria suggests that H5N1 has been rampant on the continent for some months.


The New York Times sums it up:


The discovery of the Italian outbreak seemed to be a model of early detection, underlining how bird flu can be controlled in countries that have the money and the scientific resources to do it.


Outbreaks in poor countries like Nigeria, Turkey and Iraq percolated for months before they were discovered, allowing the virus to spread widely to commercial chicken flocks and even to humans.


…"There is no immediate danger for our country," Mauro Delogu, an Italian virologist at the University of Bolgona, told ANSA, "because our system of surveillance is efficient and has not contaminated bird farms."


Concerning Nigeria, that country’s Vanguard newspaper presents a fascinating interview with Emmanuel Ijewere, formerly president of the Red Cross of Nigeria and now retired and running a poultry (and other meat) business.


He explains in considerable detail why Nigeria is ill-prepared to combat a major bird flu outbreak, or other kind of emergency. One of his examples:


Disaster management in Nigeria is almost zap. If there is a major disaster in Nigeria, we wouldn’t be able to cope. In Lagos, in particular, the fire brigade that was set up at independence still exists today. But, how many vehicles do they have? And they have been honest enough to say if your building is above three floors and there is fire, you are on your own. Because their hoses cannot get there, even when it gets there, they do not have water….So, there is this whole problem of lack of preparedness. God forbid, if anyone of us should have fire in the house, you must put it out by yourself.  Because, if he is going to wait for the fire brigade, the fire would have consumed the place before they arrive, and when they arrive they will do nothing.  We are all on our own. There is no preparedness, we need to address that, it’s very very important.

February 13th, 2006


Europe – Not Looking Too Bad

New Scientist magazine contains some of the best reports on the developing bird flu story. The latest is a round-up of news from Europe. Despite scares this week in several countries, including Portugal and Sweden, the magazine is generally optimistic that the continent will not suffer greatly.


Most of the 121 people known to have caught the virus so far in Asia were living with, killing, plucking or eating infected poultry. Relatively few Europeans do that, so there are likely to be far fewer human infections. "The threat of a pandemic hasn't increased significantly as a result of recent developments" in Europe, says Angus Nicoll of the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control.


And because the means to contain outbreaks quickly exist in Europe, fewer poultry are likely to be infected. "Europe is in an excellent position to prevent the virus from getting a foothold," said Gudjon Magnusson of the World Health Organization, after talks on the situation this week in Copenhagen, Denmark.

October 27th, 2005


Bird Flu Hits Europe
Here in
Melbourne, The Age newspaper reports that an outbreak of bird flu in Romania is H5N1, according to the Romanian state veterinary authority.

October 15th, 2005


H5N1 Hits Europe (Almost)
The EU Commission has announced that the bird flu confirmed recently in Turkey is the H5N1 strain. The flu was found in birds in the north-west of the country, so the virus has still been confined to Asia. However, "EU Health Commissioner Markos Kyprianou said the assumption was that a bird flu outbreak in Romania would also prove to be the H5N1 type. Tests are continuing."
October 13th, 2005