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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 March 2006, 18:31 GMT
Tests confirm Swiss bird flu case
Birds on Lake Geneva
The bird was found between two boats on Lake Geneva
Switzerland's first case of the deadly H5N1 bird flu has been confirmed by tests on a duck found in Lake Geneva.

The merganser duck was found on 22 February between two boats on a pier leading to Geneva's Jet d'Eau fountain.

Switzerland has ordered poultry to be kept indoors - a precaution being taken by a number of European countries.

Neighbouring Germany has stepped up measures to stop the spread of bird flu by ordering a ban on pets roaming free after a cat was found dead with H5N1.

The government wants pet owners, from the Baltic region to the Swiss border, to keep cats indoors and dogs on a leash.

The domestic cat, found on the virus-hit Baltic island of Ruegen, was the first EU mammal to die of bird flu.

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French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin urged similar precautions in France, asking cat owners not to let their pets stray into areas affected by bird flu.

France is already vaccinating thousands of free-range poultry after 15 wild swans were found to have H5N1.

Further tests

H5N1 does not yet pose a large-scale threat to humans. However, experts fear the virus could mutate and trigger a flu pandemic, potentially putting millions of human lives at risk.

Deaths of domestic cats, tigers and a panther from H5N1 have been recorded in Asia. Tests are continuing on the German cat to determine if it is the exact strain that has been found in birds.

The UK-based Veterinary Laboratories Agency - the European Union and world reference laboratory for avian influenza - confirmed the Swiss case on Wednesday.

It says it is also carrying out analysis on further samples received from Romania and Sweden.


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