PM calls bird flu talks

With European governments getting jittery over the spread of bird flu in Turkey, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis is to meet with his interior, health and agriculture ministers at noon today for a briefing on the measures Greece has taken so far to ward off possible contamination from its neighbor. Yesterday, both central government and regional officials sought to reassure the public that bird flu does not pose any imminent risk while also tightening controls along the border with Turkey – where two people have died from the fatal strain of the virus and a suspected 15 have contracted it – and appointing extra staff to conduct tests on suspect birds. «There is no real reason for concern as all necessary preventative measures dictated by the European Union… have been implemented,» Agricultural Development and Food Minister Evangelos Bassiakos said. The measures were implemented in Greece last November and state veterinarians and prefectural officials are fully familiar with them, he added. The measures were implemented following the discovery last October of a sick turkey on the Aegean islet of Oinouses which triggered a scare but ultimately tested negative for the deadly strain of bird flu. «The European Union has not deemed it necessary to impose additional measures at this stage,» government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros said when questioned by reporters. More than 450 extra personnel have been recruited to prefectural offices and to the state veterinary service to help conduct inspections on samples taken from poultry and migratory birds, Bassiakos said. Also, an 11-member advisory committee of scientists has been established to support regional units, he added. In Evros, none of nearly 300 bird samples sent for analysis so far have tested positive for bird flu, according to Michalis Kouyioumtzis, deputy prefect of the region, which borders Turkey. «We are not particularly worried, just cautious,» he said, adding that prefectural officials are also monitoring local poultry farms. Inspections were intensified at all border posts with staff under orders to thoroughly disinfect all vehicles arriving from Turkey.

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