[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Monday, 24 October 2005, 06:58 GMT 07:58 UK
UK parrot had deadly flu strain
Birds across Europe are being kept indoors as a precaution
A parrot that died from bird flu in UK quarantine did have the H5N1 strain that has killed at least 60 people in Asia, tests have confirmed.

The bird came from Surinam in South America - a region free from bird flu.

The UK's chief vet, Debby Reynolds, said the parrot probably contracted the virus from other birds in quarantine - perhaps a group from Taiwan.

Experts have played down the threat to people from the disease as it does not spread easily among humans.

But there are fears the H5N1 strain could trigger a flu pandemic if it mutates with a human flu virus enabling it to spread more easily.


Ms Reynolds said she believed the parrot caught the disease while it was in quarantine with 216 birds from Taiwan.

All of the other birds that came into contact with the parrot have been culled, but Ms Reynolds said more tests were underway on the birds from Taiwan as some had died before the parrot.

The Department of Environment, Food and Regional Affairs (Defra) is asking for a "case-by-case risk assessment" on all birds in quarantine before they are released.

There are approximately 2,000 birds being held in eight quarantine facilities in the UK that need to be checked.

She also said the policy of placing birds from different areas in the same containment areas would be re-assessed.

It is very difficult for the H5N1 virus to pass from birds to humans and the chances of it doing so are low
Sir Liam Donaldson
Chief Medical Officer

"We will also be talking urgently to stakeholders about restricting bird markets, fairs and shows," Ms Reynolds said.

As the parrot died while it was in quarantine, the UK's disease-free status is unchanged.

President of the Society for General Microbiology Professor Hugh Pennington is insisting there is no threat to the public because all the potentially infected birds are dead.

"There is no threat to people because the virus hasn't yet mutated into this pandemic form which all the jumping up and down is about.

"The virus has come from a place where we knew the virus was anyway," he added.

Concerns over the virus have prompted the UK government to call for an EU-wide ban on imports of wild birds.

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

Earlier on Sunday, Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt told ITV1's Jonathan Dimbleby programme the government would not bring all birds indoors, like Germany, because it was not yet necessary.

"Our veterinary experts have looked at the migration paths - they've looked at the risk and they've decided that that would not at this point be a proportionate response," she said.

There have been 120 confirmed cases of bird flu being transmitted to humans in Asia, of which 60 have proved fatal.

What the discovery means for the fight against bird flu


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific