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Beijing Steps Up Bird Flu Action: UK Wants EU Wild Bird Import Ban

The enhanced veterinary checks in China came after Beijing last week reported its first outbreak of bird flu in more than two months, this time on a farm in its northern Inner Mongolia region, where 2,600 birds died, with 91,000 others culled.

Beijing (AFP) Oct 23, 2005
Chinese authorities stepped up efforts to combat bird flu in Beijing as Britain called for a European Union ban on imports of wild birds after discovering that a South American parrot died from avian influenza while in quarantine.

Britain was awaiting tests on the parrot to determine whether its death was caused by the potentially fatal H5N1 strain of the virus, with results expected Suday or early in the week.

The enhanced veterinary checks in China came after Beijing last week reported its first outbreak of bird flu in more than two months, this time on a farm in its northern Inner Mongolia region, where 2,600 birds died, with 91,000 others culled.

Chinese leaders have warned the country faces a "grave" threat from avian influenza, as both Asia and Europe fight to contain the deadly virus.

Officials in Beijing on Saturday began checking chickens, ducks, geese and even carrier pigeons being raised as pets in the city to make sure they were properly vaccinated or isolated, the Beijing Youth Daily reported.

President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao have issued a directive for an all-out effort to prevent the spread of the virus.

Britain meanwhile pressed for a European Union ban on imports of all live wild birds from around the world after discovering the dead parrot.

As scientists tried to determine what killed the bird Animal Welfare Minister Ben Bradshaw said his government made a formal request Saturday to the European Commission for such a ban.

The European Union until now has banned bird imports from countries which have cases of avian flu, such as Romania, Thailand and Turkey.

Experts from Britain's Medical Research Council were Sunday set to leave on a 10-day trip to China, Vietnam and Hong Kong to look at the way the disease was being monitored there and how to improve cooperation.

Croatian authorities stepped up measures to fight the flu Saturday after the virus causing the disease was discovered in samples taken from wild swans in the Balkans country.

In a bid to prevent any spread of the disease authorities began killing all poultry in a three-kilometre (two-mile) radius around the lake where the dead swans were found, a veterinary official said.

A new outbreak of avian flu was detected over the weekend in Russia's south Urals region of Chelyabinsk. Thirty-one birds in the Sunaly village died, and in six cases bird flu was confirmed.

In all, fowl in seven areas of Russia have been affected by the virus, which was first discovered in July.

Germany has begun enforcing a temporary ban on outdoor poultry rearing, confining fowl to sheds with spot checks on farms and fines of up to the equivalent of 30,000 dollars (25,000 euros) for violations.

The neighbouring governments of Austria, Switzerland and the principality of Liechstenstein have banned rearing free range poultry for the next few months.

The French agency for food safety AFSSA recommended increased scrutiny of wildlife, but stopped short of proposing poultry be confined.

Veterinary officials in Sweden said that bird flu killed a duck there and expected to find out Sunday whether the strain in question was H5N1.

H5N1 has claimed more than 60 lives in Asia since 2003 -- the most recent fatality was a man in Thailand last week -- and scientists fear it might mutate into a type transmissible from human to human, sparking a global pandemic.

European health experts from more than 50 countries are set to gather in Copenhagen on Monday to assess the response to bird flu.

Also Monday, in Ottawa, health ministers and experts from 30 countries are scheduled to meet to forge a coordinated international front against bird flu and to advance global preparations for a possible flu pandemic.

Ministers from China, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Nigeria, South Africa and the United States are expected as are representatives from the World Health Organization, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and the World Organization for Animal Health.

The FAO has warned that migratory birds believed to be carriers may next take the virus to Africa, saying that the continent would be an "ideal breeding ground" because of close contact between people and animals.

Scientists fear Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda are particularly threatened as they host millions of migratory fowl flying to warmer climes during the European winter.

Senegal -- home to west Africa's largest bird sanctuaries -- has asked people to take any poultry found dead to the nearest vet for inspection.

Australia has drawn up a bird flu battle plan including the possibility of holding airline passengers in quarantine in aircraft hangars for six days, a report said Saturday.

The government plan would be put into operation if bird flu mutated into a human-to-human virus and posed the risk of a pandemic.

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Creating DNA Vaccine Could Help Save Lives, Slow Spread Of 'Bird Flu'
London, UK (SPX) Oct 20, 2005
Researchers scrambling to combat a virulent form of bird flu that could mutate into a form easily spread among humans should consider developing vaccines based on DNA, according to British biochemical engineers.

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