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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 February 2006, 16:31 GMT
Suspected bird flu on French farm
German military in protective suits collect dead birds on Ruegen Island
The German military has been deployed to collect dead birds
France has found a suspected case of the deadly bird flu virus H5N1 on a poultry farm, the farm ministry says.

If confirmed, it would be the first time a farm bird has been infected in France, where two wild ducks have tested positive in the south-east.

Officials in Germany say further tests carried out on a domestic duck thought to be infected with the H5N1 strain have shown it does not have the virus.

Meanwhile, Slovakia has found its first H5N1 cases in a wild falcon and grebe.

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Samples from the two Slovakian birds will now be sent to the European Union laboratory in the UK for further analysis.

In other developments:

  • In western India, tests on samples collected from 94 people suspected of being infected with the virus prove negative

  • The French health ministry says there is a "strong chance" more wild birds will test positive for H5N1 following Thursday's result on a second wild duck.

Eight EU countries have now confirmed cases of H5N1 in wild birds.

Vaccination plans

The suspected domestic outbreak in France has been detected in a turkey farm in the department of Ain, where the two cases of the disease have already been confirmed in wild ducks.

A dead swan on the island of Ruegen, off north-eastern Germany
Scientists fear migrating birds may spread the virus further

The farming ministry said a high death rate among turkeys was discovered at the site, which has more than 11,000 birds.

Test results are due on Friday, it added.

The farm has been sealed off and birds will be culled.

The news comes a day after EU officials approved plans by France and the Netherlands - the EU's largest poultry producers - to vaccinate millions of birds against avian flu.

The programme, initially opposed by several countries, will be limited to birds in specific high-risk regions.

Under the plans agreed, vaccination will be allowed in the Netherlands for free-range poultry, those most in danger of contact with wild birds, as an alternative to keeping them indoors.

France will be allowed to vaccinate ducks and geese in three areas in the west and south-west thought to be at high risk, among them the coastal Landes region.

Germany, Austria, Denmark and Portugal had all opposed vaccination in earlier talks.

Poultry sales have plunged in Italy, Greece and France since the confirmation of H5N1 outbreaks.

The lethal H5N1 strain has killed more than 90 people, mostly in Asia, since late 2003. It can be caught by humans who handle infected birds, but is not yet known to have passed from one person to another.

Scientists have warned that if the virus mutates, it could create a pandemic that could kill millions of people.



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