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Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 June 2007, 09:11 GMT 10:11 UK
Experts meet on bird flu threat
A dead swan was found at Cellardyke in Fife last year
Scientists from around the globe are meeting in Aviemore to consider the latest ways of combating the threat of avian flu.

The experts are being drawn together under the umbrella of the United Nations to review recent cases.

More than 100 people have died from the strain H5N1.

Scientists have been astonished at the rate with which in the past two years it has spread to Western Europe from the Far East.

The 30 delegates represent countries in Europe, Asia and Africa.

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), the Scottish Executive and Convention on Migratory Species opened the two-day meeting.

Professor Colin Galbraith, of SNH, said he believed Scotland could play a key role in the surveillance of migratory wild birds as part of wider monitoring of the spread of bird flu.

On the agenda is a review of the situation in individual countries and recent outbreaks
Delegates will discuss what information is needed to understand potential infection routes and how data gathered by ornithological organisations can help
A "brainstorming session" on the top 10 regional needs to aid preparation for further outbreaks
There is a session on how to handle the media when there is an incident
The experts will investigate contingency planning for dealing with captive bird collections and zoos
The summit will finish with a visit to Insh Marshes, a large wetland near Kingussie

He said: "What the conference here in Aviemore is looking at is reviewing where bird flu is, how should we tackle any incident and to see if we can build a better surveillance system."

A dead wild swan found at Cellardyke in Fife last April is Scotland's only confirmed case of the H5N1 strain of avian flu - the same as hit the Bernard Matthews turkey plant in Suffolk earlier this year.

The Cellardyke bird was identified as a whooper swan, not native to the UK.

Scientists were unsure whether it contracted the disease abroad or after it arrived in Britain.

Restrictions imposed in the wake of the discovery of the swan were lifted more than two weeks later.

The virus is highly contagious to birds.

However, there are fears it will mutate into a virus that can jump from human to human and those tracking the disease have said tackling it remains one of the biggest international challenges.


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