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Last Updated: Sunday, 9 April 2006, 07:48 GMT 08:48 UK
Tests find no new bird flu cases
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

No more wild birds have tested positive for the deadly H5N1 strain of avian flu since a case was confirmed in a swan found in Fife last week.

However experts are continuing to test birds picked up near Cellardyke, and a UK helpline has taken thousands of calls about dead birds.

Two newspapers have published details of government plans to cope with a human flu pandemic, devised last year.

But a health spokesman said: "This is still a disease of birds, not humans."

Extra vets and support staff have been drafted into eastern Scotland to help recover other dead birds.

Dr John McCauley, of the Institute of Animal Health, told BBC Radio Five Live it was vital to continue the testing.

He said 1,100 samples of dead birds had been analysed in laboratories in Weybridge, Surrey, in the last two months and only one had proved positive.

"But one is a whole lot worse than zero. Although the intensity of infection may not be that great, we do have to be very, very vigilant and do everything in our powers to stop the virus getting into the poultry," he said.

QUICK GUIDE

Nearly 2,500 dead birds were reported across the UK on Friday.

Scotland's eight laboratories that can test for bird flu have remained open this weekend and will stay open over Easter.

More than a dozen birds have been put down by vets at Jersey's Animals Shelter after a duck found in a car park showed signs of bird flu.

Tissue samples have been sent for testing, environment officials have ordered all poultry within a kilometre to be kept under cover and the car park where the duck was found has been disinfected.

The H5N1 virus cannot pass easily from one person to another and therefore currently does not pose a large-scale threat to humans.

But experts fear the virus could gain this ability if it mutates. They say it could trigger a flu pandemic in its new form, potentially putting millions of human lives at risk.

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"

Details of government plans to deal with a human pandemic have emerged in a letter leaked to the Sunday Times, written by Chief Medical Officer Sir Liam Donaldson to Schools Minister Jacqui Smith.

He said an estimated death toll among school children of 100,000 could be halved if school closures were put in place.

A Downing Street spokesperson refused to comment on newspaper stories about planning for a flu pandemic but said, "obviously you would expect the government to be doing contingency planning for what would happen in a serious flu pandemic."

He added that a "good amount of planning" has been done.

Cobra, the government's crisis management committee will meet again on Monday.

The Sunday Times reported that government plans included calling off-duty fire fighters and retired lorry drivers into service to ensure food supplies were delivered.

Documents reportedly outlined government concerns about a lack of preparation among food firms, and the potential shortage of HGV drivers willing to go into infected areas.

A six-mile (10km) surveillance zone and 1.8 mile (3km) protection zone in place around Cellardyke will remain for at least 30 days from the day the swan was found.

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

Scotland's chief vet Charles Milne said samples had been taken from birds at six premises in the protection zone where poultry was kept.

Inspections have also been carried out on poultry flocks in the surveillance zone, while patrols are checking for smaller un-registered premises.

The Scottish Executive has also declared a wild bird risk area of 965 square miles (2,500km) - stretching from Fife to Aberdeenshire - which includes 175 registered poultry premises, containing 3.1 million birds, 260,000 of which are free-range.

In this area captive birds must be housed where possible, or at least isolated to minimise contact with wild birds. Gatherings of poultry or other captive birds is banned.

The swan found in Fife with H5N1 had a "very similar" strain to one which infected more than 100 birds in Germany, said Mr Milne.

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.




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