Avian flu advice to bird, cat owners

The Agricultural Development Ministry yesterday issued a list of guidelines aimed at curbing the spread of bird flu from wild birds to domestic poultry in Greece as experts advised cat owners living near wetlands to keep their pets indoors after a cat tested positive for the fatal H5N1 strain of the flu in Germany. Meanwhile, poultry producers complained that sales had plunged by up to 80 percent due to consumer fears. The list of 10 guidelines issued by the ministry appealed to farmers to keep poultry away from wild foul, to ensure that cars and individuals entering poultry units are disinfected, that domestic poultry be submitted to regular inspections and that the state veterinary service is informed in the event of an unnatural increase in bird deaths. Another entry on the list appeals to hunters and forest rangers to report any unnatural bird deaths to authorities immediately. Also yesterday, experts reassured cat owners that their pets faced very low risk of bird flu infection after a cat tested positive for H5N1 in Germany. However, those keeping cats or dogs near wetlands or regions where infected birds have been found – chiefly in northern Greece – have been advised to keep their animals indoors. There have been no reported cases of cats with bird flu infecting humans to date. Meanwhile, poultry firms in Thessaloniki, who claim to have witnessed an 80 percent drop in their sales, staged a promotional campaign yesterday, offering roast chicken to passers-by in the city center in a bid to win back wary customers. Some regional producers said they were facing bankruptcy.