The European Commission is expected to propose a ban on the import of live wild birds later today as agriculture ministers meet in Luxembourg to discuss the bird flu threat.
The UK called for an embargo after a parrot in British quarantine died from the lethal H5N1 strain of the virus, which has killed at least 60 people in Asia. The latest human fatality was reported today in Indonesia. The aggressive strain has also been confirmed in Russia, Turkey and Romania, with several other countries awaiting the results of tests on suspected cases. In Germany, where an order keeping free range poultry indoors remains in force, authorities have collected the bodies of 25 geese and ducks for examination. Europe’s efforts in preventing the spread of the virus have been praised by the World Health Organisation, but international health officials say the global response is still lacking. An unprecedented gathering of health ministers and international organisations in Canada is looking at ways to improve that response, as well as strategies for tackling a possible global pandemic. Production of Tamiflu – one of the few drugs that can treat the virus – has been increased in response to the threat. But Jacques Diouf, the head of the UN food agency, says too much time is being spent on how to address an outbreak among humans, rather than stopping the virus being passed between birds.