Saturday, August 27, 2005


If this is Friday, this must be Finland. Or so H5N1 might muse, on its way to Europe via the northern route. Or not.

Yesterday Finland's Agriculture Ministry was looking into possible bird flu in seagulls in a country with an 800 mile border with Russia on one side and borders with Sweden, Norway and the Baltic on the other.
"As a result of a monitoring programme in Finland, we have now made an initial finding of a possible bird flu virus in a seagull," the ministry said in a statement. "The studies are ongoing and a final result will come in three weeks." (Reuters via Eircomnet)
At the moment, the Finns are assuming it is not Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) H5N1 but a Low Pathogenic variety (LPAI), not uncommon in wild birds. Based on prior probabilities, the assumption that it is LPAI is reasonable, while based on the downside risk that it is H5N1, making an announcement and taking immediate steps is also reasonable.

Despite the Thursday pronouncement in Brussels by EU veterinarians that the presence of H5N1 in Central Asia was "not a direct threat for Europe and there is no need for general emergency actions", most knowledgeable observers believe the virus is almost certain to make its way to Europe. Sooner or later.