European Union countries are stepping up efforts to prevent the spread of bird flu. Germany is the latest in the bloc to confirm that it has found the deadly H5N1 strain of the virus in dead swans. The government’s disease control chief, Reinhard Kurth, says the virus is the Asian strain that has killed more than 90 people. “Because of the fast and fierce spread of the virus in so many European countries, I wouldn’t be surprised if other nations found cases in the next few days, or if more animals in other German areas become infected,” said Kurth.
Germany’s cases are on the Baltic sea island of Ruegen. The virus first reached the EU at the weekend, when Italy and Greece tested dead swans. Confirmed cases have also been found in Austria. Many European governments have now ordered farmers to lock up poultry to stop them from catching the virus from wild birds. But the bloc’s Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner, Markos Kyprianou, has tried to calm fears:
“There is no reason to be concerned,” he said. “Even if we have outbreaks, we will control them. And of course there’s no reason not to consume chicken. I know there is some concern, and some reluctance on the part of citizens, but I myself have never stopped eating chicken and that is the advice I give to European citizens.”
EU veterinary experts meeting in Brussels have backed plans to boost surveillance of wild birds and tighten bans on imports. At the moment humans can only contract bird flu through close contact with an infected bird, and so far there is no evidence of human to human transmission.