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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 February 2006, 16:19 GMT
Thailand bans EU chicken imports
Thai chickens
Thailand imports millions of chickens from the European Union
Thailand has banned imports of live poultry from European Union countries hit by the lethal H5N1 bird flu virus.

The 90-day ban applies to seven EU nations including France, Germany and Italy, where the deadly strain has been found in wild birds.

Thailand, which is one of the world's biggest exporters of poultry, imports breeder chickens from Europe.

The news came as Austria said that it had found a chicken infected with the virus - the first such case in the EU.

Austria's health ministry maintained that its commercial poultry stocks had not been affected by the virus.

Vaccination programme

The Thai ban on EU imports also applies to Bulgaria, Romania, Austria and Slovenia, the country's director of livestock disease control Nirandorn Auengtrakulsuk said.

"Because imports from France and Germany are banned, Thai chicken farmers might want to seek breeders from sources that are not affected by the bird flu disease, like Britain," Mr Nirandorn said.

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Thailand imported about 1 million breeder chickens between the beginning of January and 17 February, he said.

Mr Nirandorn added that the ban could be lifted within 90 days "if concerned countries can manage to curtail the disease before that".

After two days of talks, EU officials agreed on Wednesday to back plans by France and the Netherlands - the community's two biggest poultry producers - to vaccinate millions of poultry against bird flu.

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

The H5N1 strain has killed more than 90 people since late 2003, and devastated poultry farms across Asia.

It can be caught by humans who handle infected birds, but is not yet known to have passed from one person to another.


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