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Last Updated: Friday, 13 January 2006, 14:31 GMT
EU pledges $100m to bird flu fund
Turkish official with geese
Hundreds of thousands of birds have been killed in Turkey
The European Union has pledged $100m (56m; 80m euros) to help countries deal with the global bird flu threat.

The announcement comes ahead of an international donors' conference in China next week, which the UN hopes will raise around $1.5bn.

Bird flu is already on the EU's doorstep - with three deaths among 18 cases of infection in Turkey.

Meanwhile, France says it will conduct exercises simulating an outbreak to test the country's readiness.

French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin said he would extend a ban on rearing outdoor poultry to cover more than half of France - Europe's biggest poultry producer.

The agricultural ministry said the measures had been extended to risk areas "where there could be migratory birds", adding that further measures could be introduced "if the threat nears".

Europe's second-largest poultry producer, the Netherlands, has said it will submit a request to the European Commission to vaccinate its poultry against bird flu.

Global threat

Scientists analysing the virus in Turkey say it is a particularly nasty form, but one which has been seen elsewhere.

The disease is not only a threat to health, but where it strikes it jeopardises economic growth and poverty alleviation
Benita Ferrero-Waldner
Europe's External Relations Commissioner

The analysis of a sample from one Turkish case showed a genetic change which has been seen in previous human cases in Hong Kong and Vietnam.

However, a team from the National Institute of Medical Research in the London-based team stress the alteration does not make the virus more likely to pass between humans.

More than 70 people have died worldwide since the latest outbreak started in late 2003.

Moving closer

There have been no known outbreaks of the highly dangerous H5N1 strain among birds within the EU, but it has been found in Romania, which is due to join the bloc next year.

EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said the aid, in the form of grants, would help poorer countries, including those in Eastern Europe and Africa, tackle the disease and risk of disease.

"Never before has an animal disease posed a global threat of such a dimension and spread at such a pace," she said.

"As the disease spreads from the first cases in Asia to the more recent outbreaks in Turkey it is now ever closer to Europe's doorstep. The disease is not only a threat to health, but where it strikes it jeopardises economic growth and poverty alleviation."


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
See how bird flu has affected daily life for some people in Turkey.



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