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Last Updated: Friday, 14 October 2005, 07:46 GMT 08:46 UK
Bird flu 'risk to chicken sales'
Bird flu has spread from South East Asia to Europe
The "intense interest" in the risk of a UK bird flu outbreak could seriously damage chicken and poultry sales, the National Farmers' Union has warned.

President Tim Bennett said the public did not know enough about the virus and British chicken was safe to eat.

Ministers say they are prepared to combat the disease.

Meanwhile EU specialists are meeting to discuss new measures to stop bird flu spreading in Europe after outbreaks were confirmed in Turkey.

The Turkish birds were found to have the highly virulent strain of the disease from South East Asia, known as H5N1.

News of the outbreak in north-west Turkey came after avian flu was also confirmed in ducks in Romania. The EU said those cases were assumed to be the same strain.

Samples of the dead birds were sent from Turkey and Romania to the UK for laboratory analysis.

The European Commission has banned the import of live birds, poultry and feathers from Romania.

EU veterinary officers are holding emergency meetings to explore measures to reduce the chance of contact between poultry and wild birds in high-risk areas.

Contingency plan

Mr Bennett said the public was not being told enough and insisted British chicken and poultry products were perfectly safe to eat.

Dead chicken
Turkey and Romania have culled thousands of birds

The NFU has stressed that bird flu is a disease mainly affecting birds. Humans were only affected if they spent long periods of time with birds, they said.

Retailers said so far sales of poultry had been unaffected.

The government's chief vet, Debby Reynolds, said her officials were prepared if bird flu should ever be confirmed in poultry in the UK.

A full contingency plan was in place, she said, adding that the government had eradicated avian influenza and other bird diseases in the past.

David Salisbury, head of immunisation at the Department of Health, said an assumption was being made that one in four people would be affected by any such outbreak

"The risk is very real, we're very aware of what's happening in south-east Asia and are monitoring very carefully the spread of disease amongst birds," he told BBC News.

"We're watching very carefully for cases in humans and the presence of bird disease in Europe of course raises everybody's anxieties."

Anti-viral drugs

Ministers have rejected a Liberal Democrats call for a ban on the wild bird trade.

Conservative Shadow Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said the UK was not completely ready for the effects of a human flu outbreak.

He said the country was behind some countries in the queue for anti-viral drugs from pharmaceutical companies.

A Department of Health spokeswoman said the government was stockpiling anti-viral drugs.

A government expert discusses the fears over bird flu


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