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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 September 2005, 18:12 GMT 19:12 UK
EU experts urge bird flu action
Ducks for sale in Indonesia
Bird flu is already spreading panic in South-East Asia
Medical and veterinary experts from across Europe have advised EU states to coordinate their actions to deal with the threat of bird flu.

The experts' meeting in Brussels on Thursday was the first such EU summit to focus on the disease, which has killed dozens of people in Asia.

There have been no cases of bird flu among humans in the EU, but the lethal H5N1 strain of it has reached Russia.

There are fears the virus could mutate, jump species and cause a pandemic.

Principally an avian disease, first seen in humans in Hong Kong, 1997
Almost all human cases thought to be contracted from birds
Isolated cases of human-to-human transmission in Hong Kong and Vietnam, but none confirmed

The European experts warned that people at risk, such as poultry workers, should be given adequate protection against infection.

They said EU member states should jointly "intensify the work to update and adapt their avian influenza contingency plans".

They said the EU needed a "synchronised rapid reaction for vets and doctors" to tackle any spread of the virus across Europe.

Several EU states are stockpiling anti-flu drugs, but the EU has not followed the recent Dutch ban on keeping poultry outdoors. The Dutch have now decided to lift the ban.

The EU is also looking at whether to organise a pledging conference to raise money for prevention and control of the disease in South-East Asia, where most cases of bird flu originate.

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