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Bird Flu Is Detected in China and in Russia

The virus could move to the Mideast and Africa, U.N. officials warn. Fear of a pandemic grows.

October 20, 2005|From Associated Press

MOSCOW — Russian authorities on Wednesday detected a deadly strain of avian flu in birds south of Moscow, and China reported a fresh outbreak among birds in its northern grasslands.

The United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization warned of a marked increase in the chances that bird flu would move to the Middle East and Africa, hitting countries poorly equipped to deal with an outbreak. The European Union announced plans for an exercise simulating a human flu pandemic to improve readiness in case the bird virus mutates into a strain transmissible among people.

China's official New China News Agency said 2,600 birds in the northern grasslands had died of the disease. It did not give details on when the birds were found, and sought to reassure the public that the outbreak was contained.

The H5N1 strain was detected in Siberia in July. Preliminary genetic tests now have found an H5N1 flu virus in samples of birds taken from Yandovka, a village south of Moscow, the Russian Agriculture Ministry said. Further tests are needed to confirm the finding.

Officials said 220 of 3,000 domestic birds in Yandovka had died. Remaining birds on the six affected farms were being destroyed, and local officials have decided to kill all poultry in the village.

More than 200,000 people in the region were given flu vaccinations, the Itar-Tass news agency said. Such shots are given to prevent normal flu so that if a person becomes infected with the bird virus, there is no human flu strain to mix with and create a dangerous hybrid.

The H5N1 strain of bird flu has killed more than 60 people in Asia, but no one in Russia has been diagnosed with it, officials said. Most human cases have been traced to direct contact with infected birds.

A 48-year-old Thai man who died this week after cooking and eating sick chickens had bird flu, making him the 13th person killed by the disease in Thailand, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said today.

His 7-year-old son, who also had contact with the chicken, has been hospitalized in Bangkok and is also suspected of contracting bird flu, said Dr. Thawat Suntrajarn, director-general of the Department of Communicable Disease Control.

The man had been hospitalized shortly after cooking and eating his neighbor's dead chickens.

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