Bird deaths from avian flu on the rise

Fowls reported infected with fatal H5N1 strain in India, France, and Germany.

bird flu 88 (photo credit: )
bird flu 88
(photo credit: )
Egypt's agriculture minister said Saturday the number of cases of bird flu in the country were not high enough to warrant large-scale culling of poultry at this stage, but that authorities would act accordingly if the disease spreads. There were initial conflicting reports about the number of H5N1 cases found in Egypt, but the government said Friday that there were seven cases in three provinces - four in Cairo, two in Giza and one in Minya. The government said no humans were infected. "The disease is not at a level that leads to getting rid of large numbers" of fowl, Amin Abaza told the Arabic-language Al-Arabiya satellite channel, a day after Egypt announced that the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu had been found in the country. "There are known international measures that are taken. Poultry within a certain radius get culled." He said those who work at the poultry farms were already trained and familiar with safety measures. Authorities were trying to spread awareness among families that raise poultry at home, he told Al-Arabiya. "This came as no surprise. We have been preparing for this for a while," Abaza said of the disease. The disease has swept from Asia to Europe and Africa and raised fears of a worldwide flu pandemic if it mutates into a form that is easily transmitted between humans. In India, lab tests have confirmed that at least some of the chickens that died of bird flu in western India in recent weeks died of the deadly H5N1 strain, a state minister said Saturday - announcing the country's first case of the disease. Officials will immediately begin slaughtering hundreds of thousands of birds in a 3-kilometer radius around the poultry farms in the town of Navapur where the confirmed cases were detected, Anees Ahmed, the Maharashtra state minister for animal husbandry told the Associated Press. "Around 500,000 birds will be killed," he said. "It is confirmed the deaths were caused by the H5N1 strain." At least 30,000 chickens have died in Navapur, in a major poultry-farming region of Maharashtra state, over the past two weeks, Ahmed said. The state government was sending a team of 200 veterinarians and assistants to the area, more than 400 kilometers northeast of Bombay. "We have not decided on whether to evacuate people from the area," he said. In Germany, another 28 wild birds have been diagnosed with the deadly H5N1 bird flu on a north German island, and hundreds more are being tested, officials said Saturday. Germany's first cases of bird flu were detected among dead swans and a hawk on the Baltic Sea island of Ruegen earlier this week. Till Backhaus, agriculture minister for the state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, announced the latest cases, which bring the total to 41, at a news conference in the state capital, Schwerin, on Saturday. Backhaus said the whole island has been placed under tight surveillance. German army soldiers would help seal the area, he said. He did not say exactly when or where the latest infected birds were found or tested. On Friday, The H5 subtype of bird flu was found in a dead wild duck in France, and officials said it was almost certainly the lethal H5N1 strain. If confirmed as H5N1, it would be France's first case of the disease that has swept from Asia to Europe and Africa, and raised fears of a worldwide flu pandemic if it mutates into a form that is easily transmitted between humans. President Jacques Chirac, speaking to reporters during a trip to Thailand, called for a calm but serious approach to the bird flu case.