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Last Updated: Friday, 7 April 2006, 17:29 GMT 18:29 UK
Calm is urged over bird flu case
AREA ON ALERT
Map of Scotland showing protection zone in 1.8 mile (3km) radius around Cellardyke, the 6 mile (10km) protection zone and wider wild bird risk area.
Poultry owners within wild bird risk area must keep birds indoors or, if not possible, ensure they are kept away from wild birds
Bird transport within 6 mile (10km) surveillance zone will be curbed
Poultry within 1.8 mile (3km) protection zone must be kept indoors and will be tested

A minister has warned against the temptation to "turn a drama into a crisis" over the discovery of H5N1 bird flu in a dead swan in Scotland.

Scottish Rural Affairs Minister Ross Finnie said the case was being dealt with in "proportion".

First Minister Jack McConnell is not planning to rush back from a visit to New York, with officials not wanting to promote panic and harm tourism.

Nine birds in Scotland tested for H5N1 have so far been declared negative.

Five more birds are the subject of routine tests north of the border.

Experts are warning the swan may not be an isolated case, with surveillance zones in force around Cellardyke, Fife, where the dead swan was found.

Mr Finnie told a press conference: "One thing we are trying very hard to do, to borrow that insurance phrase, is 'not turn a drama into a crisis'."

He said Mr McConnell's decision not to return in haste was "right and proper" as he did not want to inadvertently give the impression that Scotland was in a major "disease situation".

On Friday Cobra - the government committee which leads responses to national crises - met to review measures being taken.

The Scottish National Party is calling for the tests to be speeded up after it was revealed it took more than a week for the first case to be confirmed.

QUICK GUIDE

Meanwhile talks are to be held between farmers' leaders and the Scottish Executive on how to contain bird flu.

The H5N1 virus does not at present pose a large-scale threat to humans, as it cannot pass easily from one person to another.

But experts fear the virus could mutate to gain this ability, and in its new form trigger a flu pandemic, potentially putting millions of human lives at risk.

The Scottish Executive has extended surveillance zones in Scotland to include 175 properties with 3.1 million birds, as well as free-range poultry. About 48 are free-range premises with 260,000 birds.

An initial 1.8 mile (3km) protection zone was set up around Cellardyke on Wednesday, surrounded by a six-mile (10km) surveillance zone.

BIRD FLU FACTFILE
Bird flu viruses have 16 H subtypes and nine N subtypes.
Four types of the virus are known to infect humans - H5N1, H7N3, H7N7 and H9N2
Most lead to minor symptoms, apart from H5N1
H5N1 has caused more than 100 deaths in Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Thailand, Turkey and Vietnam
The World Health Organisation says not all H5 or H7 strains are severe, but their ability to mutate means their presence is "always a cause for concern"

Farmers in the affected area are being ordered to house their birds where possible, or separate them from wild birds and gatherings of birds are prohibited.

Restrictions on the movement of poultry, eggs and other poultry products have been implemented.

But Mr Finnie attacked as "irresponsible" the Waitrose supermarket chain's statement that none of its poultry or eggs came from Scotland.

The supermarket said its answer to a media question had been misinterpreted, that it was not suggesting Scottish chicken and eggs could pass on the disease, and that when it opened supermarkets in Scotland in the summer they would use local produce.

Some experts are calling for a programme of poultry vaccination to be introduced should a cluster of cases emerge.

There are 14 birds being tested for bird flu from Scotland include 12 swans and two other species, although there have been no indications they have the disease.

Three dead seagulls found at a boating lake in Gloucester are also being tested for the disease. A city council spokesman said they were being tested as a precaution and the risk of the gulls having died of bird flu was "minimal".

But Professor Albert Osterhaus, who advised on measures for a mass outbreak of the virus in the Netherlands three years ago, said it was a strong possibility more cases would be found.

Map shows Scotland's registered poultry population - darker colour represents more birds. Click below for the whole country.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) responded to criticism over the delay in dealing with the dead swan by saying there had been no reason to suggest it should be given priority over other samples.

"It is vital that test results are accurate and, because of the badly decomposed state of this sample, a number of tests were carried out," said a Defra spokesman.

He said since 21 February the laboratory at Weybridge in Surrey had tested more than 1,100 samples.

If you find a dead swan, goose or duck; or three or more dead wild or garden birds in the same place, you should call the Defra helpline on 08459 335577.




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Reaction to the confirmation of the deadly bird flu strain



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