Officials ask for calm but stay on alert for bird flu

Authorities in northern Greece yesterday intensified inspections on regional poultry farms after the H5 strain of bird flu was detected in three dead swans in separate coastal areas but they stressed there was no cause for alarm. «People should remain calm. Ten days have passed since the suspect samples were collected – if there was a problem it would have become evident by now,» Thessaloniki’s Deputy Prefect Ioannis Bikos said. Meanwhile, Agricultural Development Minister Evangelos Bassiakos declared that «state authorities are fully prepared and alert,» adding that extra staff were being recruited to prefectural veterinary units to help test new poultry samples and inspections were being intensified at border areas to keep suspect poultry out of the country. «It is significant that no domestic poultry has been found to be infected,» Bassiakos said. Authorities in the prefectures of Thessaloniki and Pieria, where the three dead swans were found last week, said they were intensifying checks on poultry units and were monitoring all farms within a 10-kilometer radius of the coastal areas where the suspect samples were found. Hunting has been temporarily banned in both prefectures. The European Commission said it would enforce a clampdown on the transport of poultry in the region for 21 days if laboratory tests on the swan samples – due next week – prove positive for the deadly H5N1 strain. If the samples test negative, the measures will be lifted immediately, it said.

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