Bird flu battle hots up

The government yesterday confirmed that a dead goose found on Skyros had tested positive for the fatal strain of the bird flu virus – bringing to four the number of birds found to be infected with H5N1 in Greece – while initial tests on two young men with bird flu-like symptoms proved negative. Meanwhile the Economy and Finance Ministry said it would provide an additional 9.2 million euros in emergency funding for fighting the spread of the virus, 1 million euros of which is to be spent on buying protective masks and suits for those handling suspect birds. A 15-year-old boy, hospitalized on Sunday with suspicious symptoms nine days after picking up a sick swan, was discharged yesterday. And a 29-year-old hunter, who came down with a fever five days after handling wild ducks, was said to be in «good condition.» The results of confirmatory tests were pending. Meanwhile, local authorities reiterated calls for calm while pushing forward with inspections to ensure that strict measures, aimed at curbing an outbreak of the virus among domestic fowl, are adhered to. «Teams of municipal and police officials are going from house to house to ensure that poultry is being kept indoors,» Evros’s chief state veterinarian, Antonis Panousis, told Kathimerini. «The measures currently being implemented in Greece… will serve to avert the spread of the virus to poultry farms,» according to a statement issued by the office of European Health and Consumer Affairs Commissioner Markos Kyprianou yesterday. Wild ducks, swans and seagulls are the most likely to carry bird flu but poultry is extremely susceptible to it and could spur an epidemic, experts said yesterday. Municipal authorities on Skyros and in the prefectures of Thessaloniki and Pieria, where the three dead swans that tested positive for H5N1 were found earlier this month, yesterday warned people not to pick up dead birds but also called for calm. Meanwhile Education Minister Marietta Giannakou told reporters that teachers would start briefing pupils from today on precautionary measures. Athens’s state veterinary service yesterday called upon citizens to report sightings of dead birds on: 210.770.9290 / 775.3287 / 778.1680 / 770.6254 between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. daily.

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