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Last Updated: Sunday, 9 April 2006, 12:25 GMT 13:25 UK
McConnell backs bird flu response
Jack McConnell
Mr McConnell said school closures could make the situation worse
Scotland's first minister has defended the authorities' reaction to the discovery of a deadly strain of bird flu in a swan found in Fife.

Speaking for the first time about the case, Jack McConnell said the response had been "fast, effective and well coordinated".

He was in New York for the Tartan Week celebrations when the news broke.

Scottish National Party deputy leader Nicola Sturgeon had attacked the first minister for his silence on the issue.

However, Mr McConnell, who has now returned from America, praised the way the case had been handled.

He told Sky News: "There were detailed contingency plans in place, they moved quickly when the strain was confirmed to make a public announcement but to also make sure that different agencies were able to take the appropriate action."


There had been criticism that the dead bird was not removed from the harbour quickly enough, as it was collected the day after it was reported to the authorities.

But Mr McConnell insisted procedures had been followed correctly.

He said: "It is no surprise that there would eventually be at least one case somewhere in the United Kingdom.

"I am absolutely certain the right procedures were followed last week and people can be confident that the information they are getting is accurate and up-to-date."

He also defended the time it took to get the test results, which came back a week after the badly-decomposed body of the swan was collected.

"I think the fact that over a few days the right tests were carried out and it was identified, even in that very badly decomposed bird, should be reassuring to people," he said.

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

However, he also highlighted that other European countries affected by bird flu had had more than one case.

"It is possible that there may be another case and therefore we cannot be complacent," he said.

Mr McConnell stressed that the bird flu case and any possible future human flu pandemic were two distinct issues.

He said plans were in place to deal with any mass flu outbreak in people.

He added that as part of that, schools would be closed if cases were identified among pupils.

But he said the closure of schools could actually make the situation worse.

"It could, for example, make life difficult for key emergency workers because they have children to look after at home rather than those children being in the school," he said.

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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