The EU’s agriculture ministers are due to meet in Brussels to discuss the growing threat from bird flu. The discussions will consider what aid can be offered to poultry farmers struggling to cope. With 79 cases so far, Germany is the hardest hit. It has been confirmed that the virus has now spread to the mainland from the island of Ruegen, despite stringent efforts to contain it.
Specialists from a German army anti-nuclear, biological and chemical weapons unit have been sent to the area. There has also been a cull of farmed poultry deemed especially at risk. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has made an emergency visit to the stricken island. “Right now it is important that we do everything possible to keep the wild birds away from the farm poultry and the good news is that so far there has been no infection of farm poultry,” she said. Avian influenza has flared anew in recent weeks. The H5N1 virus is known to have infected 171 people worldwide since late 2003. A total of 93 have died. The poultry industry has been hit hard, with some countries reporting more than a 50 per cent drop in sales. In addition, France, Europe’s biggest poultry producer, confirmed its first case on Saturday.