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Romanians Kill Domestic Fowl in Effort to Stem Flu

An EU official says the bloc will try 'drastic measures' if current strategies don't work.

October 17, 2005|From Associated Press

BUCHAREST, Romania — Authorities killed thousands of domestic fowl Sunday in eastern Romania, hoping to prevent the spread of a deadly strain of bird flu that has decimated flocks and killed more than 60 people in Asia.

Officials said they were awaiting test results from a British laboratory on samples from birds found dead in Maliuc, a village about 20 miles from the village of Ceamurlia de Jos, where the H5N1 virus was first detected in Romania.

Authorities around the world fear that the H5N1 strain could mutate into a form that could be passed among people, leading to a flu pandemic. So far, most of the human deaths involving H5N1 have been linked to victims' contact with birds.

Experts say migrating birds have spread the disease since it appeared in Southeast Asia two years ago. The strain has already appeared in Turkey, and the European Union has banned poultry imports from Turkey and Romania.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said Sunday that the bloc would not hesitate to propose "drastic measures" to fight the spread of bird flu if current safeguards proved insufficient. Italy said that as of today, all poultry for sale would have labels identifying its country of origin.

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt, on a tour of Southeast Asia to discuss the disease, said it would be daunting to identify and contain an outbreak if the virus mutated to a form easily spread among people. It could skip across borders and oceans, killing millions.

Turkish authorities said Sunday that the H5N1 outbreak in the western village of Kiziksa had been contained, while initial lab tests conducted after about 1,000 chickens died in eastern Turkey showed no signs of bird flu. Authorities were on alert across Turkey, however, warning that migratory birds could still spread the disease.

About 10,000 birds have been destroyed in that country.

Romanian officials said that all domestic fowl in Ceamurlia de Jos, in the Danube River delta, were killed and that the village was being disinfected.

In 1918, an influenza pandemic believed to have originated in birds killed an estimated 20 million to 50 million people worldwide. Subsequent pandemics in 1957 and 1968 had lower death tolls.

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