Borders scanned for bird flu

Greece yesterday joined Europe-wide efforts to bolster defenses against Asian bird flu as nervous residents in northern Greece emptied pharmacy shelves of anti-viral medicines. Authorities stepped up tests on migratory birds in the northeastern Evros region, which lies on the border with Turkey – the first country in Europe to confirm the disease within its borders. Evros prefectural officials said yesterday they will send more than 40 migratory birds to a laboratory in Thessaloniki for tests over the weekend. Drivers entering Greece from customs points in the region also must be armed with more patience as checks of incoming vehicles are becoming stricter and more intense. The authorities have been doing their best to allay panic after the virus emerged in Romania. Residents in the area are continuing to stock up on medicines. Greek television has been showing images of long queues at pharmacies over the last 48 hours to show the efforts people are making to protect themselves from the virus that has killed 60 people in Asia. Pharmacists said yesterday that they have sold all stocks of the drug but added that more medicines are expected as of next week – as early as Monday. «We took delivery of 10,000 anti-viral shots for the whole Evros region and in one week the stocks sold out,» said Adam Adamidis, the president of Evros Pharmacists. «There has been an effort to give priority to groups more susceptible and those that need it most,» he added. So far, checks in Greece for the H5N1 virus have been coming up clean. The Association of Poultry Farming Organizations said new tests confirmed that Greece still appears to be safe from the virus. European Union experts were expected yesterday to approve proposals to boost protection in the 25-nation bloc while foreign ministers are expected to hold an emergency meeting on the issue next week.