Bird flu has reached the European Union with at least one confirmed case in Greece, while the discovery of 1000 dead birds in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia raised fears it was present there. There are also suspicions the disease has reached Bulgaria.
Romania and Turkey have confirmed they have discovered the potentially mortal H5N1 strain, but health officials are stressing that that does not mean the risks to human life have suddenly become much higher in Europe. No human infections are reported yet, but the danger will become more acute when they are, if the virus mutuates into a version humans can pass on to others. The worrying thing is that, unchecked, this is a question of when, not if, and so the race is on to prepare for the worst, or prevent it happening. To that end EU ministers are meeting twice this week to lay their plans, and the World Health Organisation, while not upgrading its pandemic alert, is urging vigilance. Italy is not waiting for EU ministers to act. As it did during the “mad cow” crisis of the late 1990s, Rome is rushing in a labelling system for poultry, guaranteeing the source and health of produce.