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Last Updated: Friday, 7 July 2006, 14:53 GMT 15:53 UK
Spain suffers first bird flu case
Map showing Spain with Salburua lake
Spain has confirmed its first case of the lethal H5N1 strain of bird flu.

The virus was detected in a great crested grebe that was found dead in the northern province of Alava, the agriculture ministry said.

The Spanish authorities said there was no reason for alarm, and that the case should not affect poultry consumption.

H5N1 has spread to birds in many European countries. The virus has killed more than 130 people since 2003 - mostly in East Asia.

'No reason for alarm'

Spanish Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega said the case was "strictly veterinary" and would not affect people.

Migratory birds over the Straight of Gibraltar
A key migratory route from Africa passes through Spain
"I would like to make clear to citizens that there is no reason for alarm or for changing habits in our daily life," she said.

A sample from the bird, found in a marshes in Salburua lake near the city of Vitoria, was sent to a laboratory on Thursday.

Transporting domestic birds and hunting wild ones has been banned in an area 3km (2 miles) around the location where the wild bird was found, the agriculture ministry said.

Increased surveillance will take place within a 10km radius around the site.

Preventative measures

Spanish officials had said last year that it was "only a matter of time" before avian flu spread to the country, which is on a key migration route of birds flying north from Africa.

Some preventive measures - such as bans on outdoor poultry farming in areas near marshlands - were already in place in Spain.

The H5N1 strain has been found in birds in several European countries including the UK, France, Germany and Italy.

Nearly all cases of H5N1 in humans have been contracted through close contact with infected birds.

But experts fear the virus could mutate into a form that makes it more easily transmissible among humans.

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