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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 October 2005, 07:38 GMT 08:38 UK
Bird flu fear grips Europe, Asia
Vets destroying fowl in Macedonia
European governments are taking the bird flu threat very seriously
Several nations in Europe and Asia are reporting new cases of the lethal H5N1 bird flu strain among poultry, sparking new fears that humans could be at risk.

Fresh outbreaks have been reported in Romania and Russia. China says it has lost thousands of fowl to the virus.

Hungary says it has developed a new vaccine that appears to protect humans and animals against the virus.

In Thailand, a man has died of bird flu, raising the country's death toll from the virus to 13.

The man was a farmer who had cooked and eaten infected chicken, officials said.

His seven-year-old son is in hospital with flu-like symptoms.

Meanwhile, Germany has ordered its farmers to keep poultry indoors as a precaution.

The UN has warned that the latest reported cases increase the likelihood of the lethal bird flu strain spreading to Africa and the Middle East, along the flight path of migrating birds.

Russian reports

Tests at a UK laboratory confirmed on Wednesday that the lethal strain of the bird flu virus had struck at the Romanian village of Maliuc.

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Maliuc joins the Danube delta village of Ceamurlia de Jos as the second place in Romania to have confirmed it has the virus.

Both sites have been quarantined and poultry in the area have been culled.

Preliminary tests suggest bird flu has also arrived in European Russia, west of the Ural mountains, having been found in Asian Siberia already.

Russian laboratories said H5N1 had been detected in birds in Tula, about 220km (137 miles) south of Moscow.

As a precaution against the virus, Germany's environment minister ordered farmers across the country to quarantine their poultry indoors.

European exercise

Also on Wednesday, China's official news agency said some 2,600 birds had died from the H5N1 virus in Inner Mongolia, at a farm near the regional capital of Hohhot.

H5N1 BIRD FLU VIRUS
Principally an avian disease, first seen in humans in Hong Kong in 1997
Almost all human cases thought to be contracted from birds
Possible cases of human-to-human transmission in Hong Kong, Thailand and Vietnam, but none confirmed

No human victims were mentioned in the report - China's bird flu outbreaks have so far only affected its fowl.

Its most recent previous confirmed case was near the Tibetan capital of Lhasa in August, in which 133 birds died and another 2,475 were slaughtered.

Hungary said on Wednesday that it had developed a new vaccine against the bird flu virus that appeared in early trials to be effective at protecting humans and animals. The UK and US are among other countries working on versions of a bird flu vaccine.

At least 60 people in Asia have died after contracting flu from birds infected by H5N1, but scientists say the disease does not appear able to spread between humans.

However, experts fear that if it mutates, it could become highly contagious and lead to a deadly worldwide pandemic.

The EU has begun a two-day exercise to test European countries' readiness to deal with a major health crisis.

It said the exercise had been planned 18 months ago, long before the current outbreak of bird flu.
The H5N1 strain remained largely in South-East Asia until this summer, when Russia and Kazakhstan both reported outbreaks
Scientists fear it may be carried by migrating birds to Europe and Africa but say it is hard to prove a direct link with bird migration




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