Thursday, October 13, 2005

Romania, Turkey. Now Bulgaria?

Yesterday European Union (EU) veterinarians were saying they didn't believe the bird flu in Romania is Highly Pathogenic H5N1, and in fact that it wasn't influenza at all. Their statement was widely reported. But there was a certain hedge quality to it:
“The disease situation amongst poultry and wild birds ... the available epidemiological data and the laboratory results at present do not confirm the presence of avian influenza,” the European Commission said in a statement after a meeting of EU member state vets. (Reuters via MSNBC)
They should have hedged even more.
The EU has banned all bird and poultry products from Romania after tests confirmed the presence of a strain of bird flu there.

Duck samples tested positive for the H5 virus, contradicting earlier findings.

But there is no evidence yet that the strain is the serious H5N1 variety, which has killed 60 people in Asia. Further tests will be carried out.

It is, however, the first time bird flu has been found in Europe since a deadly outbreak of H5N1 hit Asia in 2004.

"We eventually isolated the avian flu virus in the samples taken from the three ducks" found dead in a farmyard in the Danube delta, said Romania's chief veterinarian Ion Agafitei.


Tests are also being conducted on three dead wild birds found in Bulgaria.
European officials say they are confident that with proper surveillance and control, outbreaks in Europe can be contained. (BBC)
The current EU import ban on poultry products from Turkey was being extended, pending further testing (due Friday) on whether the avian influenza virus found there is Highly Pathogenic H5N1 or the Low Pathogenic H5N2. There have been confusing and contradictory reports as to whether H5N1 has been confirmed or not, so we will await Friday's announcement.

Both Romania and Turkey reacted quickly, instituting poultry quarantines and mass culling. Clearly they believed the potential for H5N1 was high. This may be one of the side-effects of their pending status as new members of the EU.

Bulgaria, sandwiched between the two countries was a logical next victim.

Update, 6 pm EDST 10/13/05:
The [European] Commission is taking further action following the confirmation last night of the presence of avian influenza H5 virus in Romania and the results from the EU laboratory this morning indicating that the avian influenza virus in Turkey is H5N1 closely related to a virus detected in a wild bird in central Asia a few months ago. The measures will be discussed at an emergency meeting of the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health in Brussels this afternoon. (EC Press release)