The deadly bird flu strain that has devastated flocks and killed dozens of people in Asia has appeared in eastern Europe, with laboratory tests confirming it has been found in birds in Romania, the Agriculture Ministry said Saturday.
The ministry said British laboratory tests confirmed that the virus detected in wild birds found dead in the Danube delta was the H5N1 strain. Authorities around the world fear could mutate into a form that can be passed among people, leading to a global pandemic which some say could potentially kill millions.
The announcement came a week after H5N1 was discovered on a farm in Turkey, prompting the European Union to ban poultry imports from both Turkey and Romania. Although H5N1 is highly contagious among birds, it is difficult for humans to contract. Still, it has killed about 60 people in Asia, mostly poultry farmers infected directly by birds.
Romanian Agriculture Minister Gheorghe Flutur called for calm, and placed the country's eastern region of Dobrogea under quarantine, requiring all vehicles entering and leaving the areas to be disinfected. Checkpoints were set up on roads entering the counties, and the region was banned from exporting eggs and poultry meat.