Europe on high alert over avian flu

Fears of avian flu spreading to continental Europe heightened on Sunday (9 Oct) as Europe was placed on high alert after fears of an outbreak of the disease in Romania and Turkey.

The Guardian and the Independent reported on Monday (10 Oct) that in Romania officials had slaughtered hundreds of birds in the Danube delta and sealed off villages.

They also vaccinated half the local bird population in an attempt to stop the disease spreading to humans.

In Turkey, where the disease was confirmed by the agriculture minister, officials began slaughtering poultry at farms near a western village after 2000 birds died there last week.

It is believed that the disease is being carried by migratory birds flying south from Russia and Kazakhstan.

The news of the latest outbreak comes only a week after officials at the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly said there was a “flagrant lack” of vaccines and anti-viral medicines to combat the disease.

It said those countries most at risk were facing the threat alone “without the necessary financial resources to buy anti-viral vaccines and medicines to build up adequate stocks”.

According to the Guardian Romanian officials told Debbie Reynolds, the UK’s chief veterinary officer, that tests there for the deadly H5N1 strain had returned as negative.

“The Romanian authorities told us today that initial tests for avian influenza viruses are negative.  This must be confirmed by further tests which will take several days,” said Dr Reynolds.

The H5N1 strain is believed to be similar to the so-called Spanish flu of 1918 which killed between 20 and 40 million people.