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Avian Flu Cases Seen in Britain, Croatia

October 22, 2005|From Times Wire Services

LONDON — Two more countries confirmed cases of bird flu Friday as Croatia said six swans had been found dead of the ailment in a national park and Britain said a parrot imported from South America had died of the disease in quarantine.

In both cases, authorities did not know whether the birds had the deadly H5N1 strain that has devastated poultry stocks across Asia and killed 60 people in the last two years. The strain has recently been found in birds in Russia, Turkey and Romania.

The European Union said Friday that it was preparing a ban on all poultry imports from Croatia.

EU officials already had ordered restrictions on bird markets and shows and urged nations to vaccinate zoo birds as part of measures to stem the spread of the disease.

The EU's executive office said Croatian veterinary authorities had told the EU that the H5 bird flu virus had been detected in samples taken from six of 15 wild swans found dead in the eastern part of the country.

Croats had feared the arrival of avian flu in their country -- a major migratory route for various bird species.

As for the parrot, Britain's chief veterinarian, Debby Reynolds, said Friday that the diseased animal, which had been imported from Suriname and held in a quarantine unit with a shipment of birds from Taiwan, had tested positive for a "highly pathogenic" form of bird flu.

Further tests were being carried out to see whether the bird carried the H5N1 strain, which is easily transmitted between birds and harder for humans to contract. Experts are closely watching the disease for fear the virus could mutate into a form easily transmitted among humans.

There was some confusion about the parrot's origins. An official with Suriname's Ministry for Natural Resources said the government had not issued any permits for export of animals to Britain this year, adding that veterinary specialists would check birds' health before granting such permits.

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