Bird flu is detected

The government yesterday called on local authorities to intensify anti-bird flu measures after three wild swans tested positive for a fatal strain of the virus in northern Greece, prompting the European Commission to announce a clampdown on the transfer of poultry in the region. Meanwhile a quarantine was imposed upon the three coastal areas of Thessaloniki and Pieria from which the swan samples had been collected. The samples tested positive for the H5 virus – which is lethal only for birds – but they have been sent to a special laboratory in England to determine whether they match the H5N1 strain, which has killed more than 80 people worldwide, the Agricultural Development Ministry said. The results are due in two to eight days, the ministry said. «It is vital that this development be tackled calmly in view of the fact that all necessary measures are being taken,» Agricultural Development Minister Evangelos Bassiakos said after the ministry issued a circular to local authorities ordering the intensification of existing measures; these include a ban on leaving poultry outdoors, the disinfection of hatcheries and monitoring the transport of poultry. The government’s cautious reaction to yesterday’s discovery comes in the wake of a bird flu scare last October when an announcement that a live turkey on the islet of Oinousses had tested positive for bird flu turned out to be false. Yesterday, local authorities in Thessaloniki and Pieria imposed a quarantine covering all areas within a 3-kilometer radius of Stavro and Neoi Epivates, in Thessaloniki, and the beach of Katerini in Pieria, where the swan samples were found. They also ordered the strict supervision of poultry farms within a 10-kilometer radius from these coastal areas. Meanwhile, the European Commission said it would keep a watchful eye on the transport of poultry in the region. «Movements of poultry… to other holdings or for slaughter will be subject to rigorous additional controls,» it said in a statement. Last week, Health Minister Nikitas Kaklamanis said that an eventual outbreak of bird flu in Greece was «inevitable.»

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