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Last Updated: Saturday, 25 February 2006, 17:38 GMT
Chirac urges calm over bird flu
President Chirac at agricultural fair
President Chirac ate some chicken to prove his point
The French president Jacques Chirac has told consumers not to panic over the discovery of the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu on a turkey farm.

Speaking at an agriculture fair in Paris, Mr Chirac said there was absolutely no risk in eating poultry.

It is the first time a farm in the European Union has been affected. France already had cases in wild ducks.

Despite reassurances that it is safe to eat cooked poultry, sales in France have dropped by up to 30%.

France is one of the world's largest exporters of poultry with an industry worth 7bn euros ($8bn).

Unfortunately you can see a completely unjustified sort of total panic developing
President Chirac

Japan has already announced an import ban with immediate effect.

The turkey farm in the eastern Ain department of the country where the poultry case of H5N1 was discovered, is just 200m from the lake where the two wild ducks were detected.

A massive vaccination programme is already under way.

In other developments:

  • Indonesia records its 20th human death from bird flu

  • In China, two more cases of bird flu are found in humans, according to the Xinhua news agency, bringing the total number of human cases in China to 14

  • Health officials in Germany confirm that a wild duck and a swan found dead near the Polish border have tested positive for bird flu, making Brandenburg the fourth German state with the virus

  • The European Union Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson tells the EU's trading partners not to overreact following Japan's decision to ban French imports.

The French turkey farmer, speaking on television, said he had kept all 11,000 birds indoors.

Experts are now trying to determine how the turkeys were infected despite being kept inside.

One theory is that the virus may have been carried on straw bedding brought from outside the farm. H5N1 has killed more than 90 people, mostly in Asia, since late 2003.

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

Scientists have warned that if the virus mutates, it could create a pandemic that could kill millions of people.




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