As bird flu spreads ever quicker in Europe the continent’s political leaders are stirring themselves into action to try and head off public panic.
With some 60 cases Germany is the hardest hit, even if the infections for now are concentrated on the Baltic island of Ruegen. Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Ruegen on Sunday, and promised the government would do all it could to prevent the disease spreading to the mainland, and infecting the poultry industry.
The spotlight moves to Brussels tomorrow, where the European Union’s agriculture ministers meet, in particular after demands by Italy and Greece, where poultry sales have collapsed, to examine what aid can be given to farmers hit the hardest by the crisis. However there has been good news from India, where a suspected human death from bird flu has been ruled out.
Observers say the reports from Germany have triggered a mini-wave of hysteria, with emergency services flooded with reports of dead birds, and chemical-suited teams being called out around the clock to dispose of them.
At least one case has been confirmed in France, Europe’s number one poultry producer, but as in the rest of the EU the only birds so far affected are wild ones. The infected zone, near Lyon, is famous for the quality of its chickens. It has been cordoned off, a cull is underway, and a nationwide ban on allowing farm poultry outdoors has been announced.