More birds die; flu suspected

Bird flu has not infected a 29-year-old Thessaloniki hunter who recently came down with a suspicious fever, health authorities said yesterday, while the number of dead birds in Greece with the H5 strain continued to climb. Tests confirmed that the hunter, who began to display avian flu-like symptoms six days ago after handling wild ducks, came up negative after a repeat round of tests for the virus. A 15-year-old boy who was also recently hospitalized in Thessaloniki with suspect symptoms was deemed clear of bird flu and discharged on Monday. Health authorities on the alert for bird flu have stepped up protective measures after the first case of the deadly H5N1 strain was confirmed on Saturday. In a bid to spread the word on precautionary steps against the disease, outgoing Health Minister Nikitas Kaklamanis has asked the Church to read out a list of protective measures to congregations after mass this Sunday. Meanwhile, the Agricultural Development Ministry said yesterday that the broad H5 virus category – which only kills birds – had been found in two more dead swans in northern Greece. One swan was found in the sea 1,000 meters from the Thessaloniki waterfront while the other was picked up in a coastal area about 90 kilometers east of the city. The samples have been sent to the EU Reference Laboratory for Avian Influenza in Weybridge, England, for H5N1 confirmation tests. Suspect cases from all over the country are also being sent to a EU-certified laboratory in Thessaloniki for examination. Six swans from Crete have been sent for tests along with two more birds found on the island of Skyros. Veterinarians warned yesterday that the outbreak is still at an early stage but said the disease will not have a great impact if protective measures are taken. A positive sign so far was the fact that the migratory birds do not appear to be infecting free-range birds on farms, veterinarians added.

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