LONDON (AFP) – A parrot imported from Latin America has become the first bird to die of avian flu in Britain, bringing the danger of the deadly virus much further west across the European Union as the global battle against the disease continues.
Meanwhile yet another avian flu outbreak was reported in Russia, this time in the southern Urals region of Chelyabinsk, and among swans at a Croatian lake.
Officials confirmed cases of the virus found in the parrot from Surinam, which died in British quarantine.
The parrot tested positive for the H5 strain of the bird flu virus. It arrived in Britain from South America last month and had been held with a consignment of birds from Taiwan, Britain”s agriculture ministry said.
The chief veterinary officer declined to speculate whether it had the lethal H5N1 strain, which has spread to Romania and Turkey.
In Moscow, the emergencies ministry said 31 birds in Sunaly village in the Chelyabinsk region had died, and in another six cases the diagnosis had been confirmed.
A Russian agriculture ministry official said Friday the risk of the lethal strain occurring in Moscow or surrounding area was minimal, despite an outbreak in Tula, 300 kilometres (190 miles) south of Moscow.
Russian veterinary services said Friday they suspected that the bird flu virus had now spread to 24 areas, including 20 in the Novosibirsk region of Siberia, three in the Kurgan region one in the southern region of Stavropol.
The Tula village of Yandovka, where the lethal H5N1 strain of the virus which has killed 61 people in southeast Asia since 2003 was found, has been quarantined for three weeks with all poultry there being killed and burned.
Meanwhile neighbouring Ukraine slapped a six-month ban on poultry imports.
Croatia said further tests were needed to determine if the virus detected in the dead swans was the H5N1 strain, feared to be the precursor of a human pandemic, or more widespread form of epidemic, that could kill millions.
The six swans were found in the lake at Zdenci in eastern Croatia, one of 20 sites Croatian veterinary services have put under increased surveillance as part of a huge operation to take samples from wild birds.
The French agency for food safety AFSSA recommended increased scrutiny of wildlife, but stopped short of proposing poultry be confined.
The United Nations” bird flu envoy flew into China Friday where more than 91,000 birds have been destroyed to stamp out a new outbreak.
"The international community needs to cooperate fully to protect the health of the world”s people," Chinese Health Minister Gao Qiang told UN envoy David Nabarro.
In Thailand, doctors reported the seven-year-old son of a Thai farmer who died of bird flu had also contracted the disease, but they said the virus had not mutated and still cannot pass easily among humans.
The farmer — the 61st human victim of the virus worldwide since late 2003 — died after slaughtering and eating a sick chicken.
"In this case the boy may have contracted the disease from the area where the chicken was dying. The boy had close contact with the virus (from being around sick chickens) and possibly from handling the birds” excrement," Siriraj Hospital director Prasit Watanapa said.
In Romania, officials said a suspected new case of bird flu had been detected in the northeast only hours after assurances that the outbreak of the deadly H5N1 virus had been contained to two southeastern locations.
The World Health Organization (WTO) warned against "scaremongering" but it also said each additional human case was making it easier to develop human-to-human transmission of the diesease.
The Czech agriculture ministry banned sales of chickens in markets and exhibitions or sale of other birds in public places.
The government of the principality of Liechstenstein has banned rearing free range poultry for the next few months following a lead by neighbours Austria, Germany and Switzerland.
Migratory birds believed to be carriers may next take the virus to Africa, the UN”s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said, warning that the continent would be an "ideal breeding ground" because of close contact between people and animals.
Scientists have said Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda were particularly threatened as they host millions of migratory fowl flying to warmer climes during the European winter.
Senegal — with west Africa”s largest bird sanctuaries — asked people to take any poultry found dead to the nearest vet for inspection.
The Canadian government sought to reassure Australia, which imported racing pigeons from Canada carrying flu antibodies and subsequently banned Canadian bird imports.
Australia has drawn up a bird flu battle plan including the possibility of holding airline passengers in quarantine in aircraft hangars for six days, a report said Saturday.
Passengers arriving in Australia would be subjected to thermal screening for fever and those on an aircraft found to be carrying someone suspected of having bird flu could be held at the airport quarantine centres, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
The government plan would be put into operation if bird flu mutated into a human-to-human virus and posed the risk of a pandemic.
The Asian Development Bank said it would spend 58 million dollars on two projects to help combat avian flu.