European health officials are bracing themselves for a possible pandemic after tests showed bird flu had reached mainland Europe. The lethal H5N1 strain of the disease was discovered in three ducks found dead in the Romanian village of Ceamurlia de Jos.
Experts fear the virus could mutate and spread easily among humans, claiming millions of lives. Although no human cases have been reported, Romanian authorities are not taking any chances. The village in question has been cordoned off and thousands of birds have been slaughtered. The Danube delta, Europe’s largest wetlands, is a major way station for migratory wild bird heading south towards warmer climes. Cases of avian flu are suspected in Bulgaria, and it has already been found in Turkey. People have been buying as much fish and red meat as they can as shops and stalls selling live birds have closed down their businesses. Officials say the disease has been contained but they are stockpiling anti-viral drugs as a precaution. The news of the outbreak triggered a virtual pan-European ban on imports of all Turkish live birds and feathers. Emergency measures are also being taken by Syria which borders Turkey. The Syrian government has also ordered the establishment of observation stations to monitor the migration of birds and their resting places.