VARIOUS: Lethal H5N1 virus confirmed in Croatia birdflu case while health ministers gather in the Canadian capital to prepare for a potential influenza pandemicRecord ID: 491324
- Title: VARIOUS: Lethal H5N1 virus confirmed in Croatia birdflu case while health ministers gather in the Canadian capital to prepare for a potential influenza pandemic
- Date: 26th October 2005
- Summary: (W2) BANGKOK, THAILAND (RECENT) (REUTERS) EXTERIOR OF THAI HEALTH MINISTRY BOXES OF ANTI-VIRAL DRUG TAMIFLU VARIOUS OF TAMIFLU TABLETS (2 SHOTS) PEOPLE WALKING DOWN HALL
- Reuters ID: LVA1W3L3OX24TG84HB5AYHRWZZ98
- Duration: 00:00:26
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- Topics: International Relations,Health
- Story Text: More and more countries in Europe are finding themselves in the grip of bird flu. Croatia said on Wednesday (October 26) tests in Britain had confirmed the lethal H5N1 bird flu virus strain in wild swans found dead at a pond in eastern Croatia last week. "Results from the laboratory (in Weybridge) confirmed our suspicions that it was the H5N1 virus. So, the measures we took, however drastic, were justified. We reacted presuming the worst case scenario and we were right. I want to underline that it is a big success that we managed to detect the virus within 48 hours of the arrival of the infected swans in to the country and we are the first country which managed to isolate the virus in wild birds immediately upon their arrival," said veterinary expert Vladimir Savic.
The lethal H5N1 strain of bird flu, which has killed more than 60 people in Asia since 2003, has been detected in Romania, Turkey, Russia and in an exotic wild bird imported and quarantined in Britain. Germany and Greece are still testing dead birds to see if they died of avian flu.
Croatian authorities culled 17,000 local poultry around the Grudnjak fish pond at the weekend to prevent the virus from spreading to poultry. Another 10,000 poultry were killed around another pond nearby, where two more wild swans died of bird flu. Some 800 veterinary experts and inspectors are monitoring poultry farms and areas which host migratory birds, he added.
Ornithologists say the situation could become more dangerous when a larger number of wild swans leave north-eastern Europe and land in Croatia in the next month and a half. The European Commission this week banned exports of wild fowl, live poultry and certain poultry products from Croatia.
While recent cases of the virus in wild birds are causing alarm bells in Europe, people in Asia are taking a more laid back approach after living with the disease for two years. The latest outbreaks have had little impact on the domestic poultry industry in Thailand even though the country's once thriving export business has been decimated by foreign import bans. While the public seems calm, the government is not taking any chances.
Along with the culling thousands of birds in avian influenza hot spots, health officials are also stockpiling the Swiss-made anti-viral drug Tamiflu, the only known medication capable of reducing bird flu symptoms and saving the lives of infected people. Thailand already has one million pills in stock which it plans to send to its regional neighbours in case of a severe outbreak. The country is also hoping to get around patent laws and manufacture its own generic version of the drug. To cover its bases the Thai government is partnering up with a Japanese University to develop a bird flu vaccine, which they hope to test on humans late next year.
Meanwhile, leading health officials and politicians gathered in Ottawa for a conference to discuss the disease. More than 60 people in Southeast Asia have died of avian flu and the outbreak among birds has made its way to Europe. Experts say the world is overdue for a flu pandemic and predict the most likely cause will be an animal strain that mutates, allowing it to be passed easily from human to human.
Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin told delegates that the global fight against a flu pandemic could be badly undermined if governments fail to prevent mass hysteria in the event of widespread fatalities. "Among the most profound challenges we face is communication with our own citizens," Martin said. "Public fear, and bad information, could all too easily snowball into panic," Martin said. Among the most profound challenges we face is communication with our own citizens. It would complicate our collective response to a pandemic immeasurably, and magnify its potential impact."
Margaret Chan, assistant director-general of the World Health Organization, said that the current strain of bird flu is not highly infectious to humans, but that animal-borne viruses are a grave cause for concern. "A pandemic is sure to occur, but we are not sure of the time frame," she told Reuters, "we are not sure of how severe it would be, but the warning signals coming from different countries in Asia. And now the avian influenza has gone beyond Asia to affect countries in Europe. So we must take these signals seriously."
The Ottawa meeting recommended that more be done to stem the spread of avian flu, boost research on vaccines and increase surveillance of affected areas.
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