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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 August 2005, 14:40 GMT 15:40 UK
UK farmers in talks on bird flu
Bird
Dutch farmers must keep birds indoors from Monday
Farmers' leaders are due to meet the government to discuss precautions against bird flu.

The Department of Food, Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) will aim to reassure farmers about current risks to the UK of the disease.

Dutch farmers have been told not to keep birds outdoors amid concern that the disease may spread to Europe.

The National Farmers' Union wants to know if Monday's decision not to adopt the ban in the UK will stay in force.

"The NFU is particularly keen to know if the Defra decision is likely be reversed in the future," NFU spokesman Dale Atkinson said before the meeting.

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Defra said yesterday that UK action similar to that in the Netherlands would be disproportionate, as the risk of the virus spreading to the UK was very low.

The Dutch measures were put in place after an outbreak of bird flu was confirmed in Russia.

Global pandemic

Reports from the Russian government indicate the strain of bird flu is moving westward - and is likely to reach Europe as birds migrate.

The strain found in the Altai, Novosibirsk and Omsk regions has been identified as H5N1 - the type that has killed at least 57 people in South-East Asia since 2003.

There are fears of a global pandemic stemming from the H5N1 type, if it mutates into a form which could spread easily from human to human.

Most of those who have died in Asia are believed to have contracted the virus directly from birds.

Bird flu is proving resistant to treatments and has appeared in animals including cats and tigers which had not been considered susceptible to the virus.




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