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Last Updated: Sunday, 23 October 2005, 08:37 GMT 09:37 UK
Bird flu experts fly to SE Asia
Potentially infected chickens are disposed of in western Turkey
Experts will look at how bird flu is monitored in other countries
British scientists are travelling to South East Asia to examine the spread of bird flu in the region.

The team, from the Medical Research Council (MRC) will also look at how to improve collaboration between countries to tackle the infection.

In Britain, scientists are still trying to find out the exact strain of bird flu that killed a parrot in quarantine.

The UK government is also pressing for a ban on the import of wild birds to the European Union.

Professor Colin Blakemore is leading the team from MRC leaving for Asia.

The scientists will visit China, Vietnam and Hong Kong to look at how bird flu is being monitored in other countries.

BBC correspondent Daniel Boettcher said the scientists hope to improve cooperation and collaboration on tackling emerging infections, especially bird flu.

"That work has taken on extra significance with recent confirmations of outbreaks in several new countries," he said.

Parrot tests

Meanwhile, scientists in the UK are testing to see whether a parrot that died in quarantine has the most dangerous strain of bird flu - H5N1, which has so far killed 60 people in Asia.

The bird, from Surinam, was part of a mixed consignment of 148 parrots and "soft bills" that arrived on 16 September. It had been held with 216 birds from Taiwan and died on 16 October.

All the birds in the quarantine unit have been culled, while people who came into contact with them have been treated with anti-viral drugs as a precaution.

It has led the government to call for a ban on wild bird imports to the EU.

Wild bird ban

Currently imports are only banned from countries which have bird flu cases, such as Romania, Thailand and Turkey.

Environment minister Ben Bradshaw said the ban on wild bird imports could be introduced within days.

"This is actually something we've been considering for some time, before the death of the parrot, it just so happens that the formal request has been made now.

We believe that for welfare, conservation and disease control reasons, this is the right course of action
David Bowles
RSPCA

"My understanding is there would be considerable support throughout the EU for this," he added.

The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said it was asking the European Commission to review its position.

A Defra spokeswoman said: "This involves birds worldwide...not just the EU.

"Birds going through quarantine come from non-EU countries."

Defra later said its call for an import ban did not include poultry which it says are not classed as "live birds".

'Delight' at ban

The RSPCA said it was "delighted" the government was calling for a ban on wild imports.

Spokesman David Bowles said: "We believe that for welfare, conservation and disease control reasons, this is the right course of action.

"We call upon the European Commission and other member states to follow the UK's lead and to agree a ban as soon as possible."

Meanwhile, Professor Pat Troop from the Health Protection Agency said she supported any moves to prevent infected birds coming into contact with humans.

"Our concern is about the emergence of a new human form of influenza, and that could happen if the bird flu were to mix with the human flu, if they were both circulating at the same time.

"And the ways to reduce that are of course to control bird flu, but also to separate human beings from birds that may have influenza."


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