Bird flu reaches Greece

Bird flu pierced the borders of the European Union after Greece confirmed yesterday its first case of the virus on an Aegean island, as Brussels responded by throwing the island into isolation as a safeguard against a possible outbreak of the disease. Agricultural Development Minister Evangelos Bassiakos confirmed that the bird flu was found on an islet near Chios, called Oinouses, which lies only a few kilometers from the coast of Turkey – the first country in Europe to confirm it had the disease. Bassiakos added, however, that further tests are required to determine whether it is the H5N1 strain that can be lethal to humans. «The Veterinary Foundation Center of Athens informed us that one of the nine samples taken was found to be positive regarding the presence of antibodies for the H5 bird flu,» the minister said. The sample was taken last Thursday from a small turkey farm and more specific results will not be known for another seven days. The EU said that it was preparing to ban the movement of live birds and poultry from the island as a precautionary move, measure that has been agreed upon with the Greek government. The Agricultural Development Ministry added that it has placed the farm under quarantine, banning the movement of all people, vehicles, animals, meat, eggs and carcasses from it without ministry permission. It also ordered the immediate disinfection of the farm. In a bid to reassure nervous residents, authorities were quick to appear on television last night stressing that Greece has an organized plan to handle the situation. Earlier in the day, the National Pharmaceutical Organization took anti-viral medicines off the over-the-counter list as panic buying emptied shelves of the medicine. Last week, more than 10,000 anti-viral shots were snapped up in a few days in the Evros region, which is on the border with Turkey. At a Health Ministry meeting late yesterday, it was decided that all employees working on the turkey farm on Oinouses would be placed under medical observation for the next week. Authorities stressed that this did not amount to being placed under quarantine.