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Europe Takes Action Against Bird Flu

Feb 16, 20062 mins
CSO and CISOData and Information Security

European health officials issued restrictions for commercial poultry farms Wednesday after reports that the bird flu virus is appearing early in migratory birds.

The New York Times reports that farmers in France, Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands have been ordered to keep their flocks indoors, after the virus was confirmed in Greece, Bulgaria, Italy, Germany, Slovenia, Croatia, Austria and Denmark.

While the most immediate threat is an uncontrolled outbreak of the virus among domesticated fowl, health officials have been saying that the strain found in birds could combine with a common human virus to make a highly virulent and contagious disease.

“For the most part, this is an animal disease,” a World Health Organization official, Dick Thomas, said. “It is deadly to chickens and other birds, but this virus has been shown to leap to humans.”

The spread of the H5N1 virus through the migration of wild birds is unavoidable, according to experts.

“We have absolutely no control over the introduction by birds returning from Africa to Siberia, Scandinavia and Greenland,” Jean Ahars, a French expert said.

European health experts will be meeting in Brussels to discuss speeding up responses to known outbreaks and to consider measures already used in China and Southeast Asia, such as slaughtering whole poultry populations.

The World Health Organization continues to stress stockpiling of vaccines and planning for pandemic-level health services.

“We have been encouraging governments to begin or continue with the pandemic preparedness,” Thomas said.

For more CSO coverage of the avian flu, read Researchers: Immunizations, Quarantines Would Stem Flu Pandemic or listen to a podcast of Senior Editor Sarah Scalet’s recent interview with Ed Carubis, former CIO of NYC’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Compiled by Paul Kerstein