NEWS

Deadly virus in Greece

The European Commission confirmed on Saturday that the deadly form of bird flu has reached Greece, as well as neighboring Bulgaria and Italy, as the government urged people to remain calm about the possibility of an outbreak. «The H5N1 virus has been detected in three samples from dead swans that migrated to our country from our northern and eastern borders,» the Agricultural Development and Food Ministry said on Saturday. The dead swans were found in the prefectures of Thessaloniki and Pieria almost two weeks ago. Initial tests in Greece showed the animals had been suffering from avian flu but samples were sent to the EU laboratory in Weybridge, UK, to see if the virus was the highly pathogenic variant which can be contracted by humans. Some 90 people, mainly in Asia, have died from the H5N1 strain so far. Experts have noticed an increasing number of wild swans in Greece in recent weeks due to the freezing weather in northern Europe. The European Commission has put a temporary ban on the movement of poultry in the regions where the dead swans were discovered. It has also ordered all poultry and captive birds to be kept indoors unless they are being taken directly to slaughterhouses. Local authorities in Thessaloniki and Pieria have imposed a quarantine covering all areas within a 3-kilometer radius of Stavros and Neoi Epivates, in Thessaloniki, and the beach of Katerini in Pieria where the swans were found. Strict checks are also being conducted on poultry farms within a 10-kilometer radius of these coastal areas. «No flu has been detected in any farm poultry in our country and there is no reason for worry or panic,» said the Agricultural Development Ministry as officials appeared on television to advise the public to remain calm. Teams of local officials in the areas affected have been handing out leaflets informing farmers and the public about how to protect themselves against avian flu. It was revealed on Saturday that another suspected case of the deadly virus was discovered on the Aegean island of Skyros. Officials said that that a dead wild goose had tested positive and that a sample was being sent to the UK to find out if it was carrying the H5N1 strain. The European Commission confirmed on Saturday that the deadly form of the virus had also been detected in wild swans found in Italy and Bulgaria.