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Last Updated: Sunday, 23 October 2005, 14:27 GMT 15:27 UK
Bird flu strain test results due
Croatian official disinfecting car
A ban would affect imports from countries outside the EU
Scientists are expected to reveal soon whether the parrot that died in UK quarantine had the bird flu virus strain that has killed people in Asia.

The bird, from Surinam, had bird flu H5, but scientists are trying to establish whether it had H5N1.

Meanwhile, the European Commission says it will decide by Tuesday on a British government request to ban imports of live wild birds.

And UK experts are flying to South East Asia to examine the spread of bird flu.

The team, from the Medical Research Council will also look at how to improve collaboration between nations.

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

Wild bird ban

The quarantined parrot, in a consignment of 148 birds from Surinam held with 216 birds from Taiwan, died on 16 October.

Our concern is about the emergence of a new human form of influenza,
Professor Pat Troop, Health Protection Agency

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.

The case led the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to call for a European Union-wide ban of bird imports.

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

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

Smuggling fears

Experts, including the RSPCA and Health Protection Agency, are supporting an EU ban as a way to prevent infected birds coming into contact with humans.

RSPCA spokesman David Bowles said it was the "right course of action" for welfare, conservation and disease control reasons".

Professor Pat Troop from the Health Protection Agency said: "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."

But professor Jangu Banatvala, a virologist from Cambridge University, said a ban could send the trade in valuable birds underground.

"If, and probably correctly, we now ban the importation of birds, this increases the likelihood that smuggling, may increase," he told the BBC.

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