New avian flu outbreaks reported in western Europe

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Saturday, July 7, 2007

At least 38 new cases of the H5N1 strain of bird flu have been found in wild birds in eastern Germany today. These discoveries, in conjunction with the fifth outbreak in France in 17 months, have prompted both countries to raise the bird flu risk assessment level.

German scientists discovered the outbreak after receiving 38 confirmed cases, all of which came from the eastern states of Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia.

Map showing the locations of Assenoncourt, Thuringia, and Saxony-Anhalt

In France, three swans have been found dead in an Assenoncourt pond sparking a massive response from French authorities. Most bird related activities have been banned and a control zone half a mile (c. 800 metres) in radius has been placed around the pond. Careful monitoring will take place for any further deaths or signs of illness in this area.

Many commercial poultry owners have been told to keep their birds inside as a precaution to prevent the disease from spreading further through Europe.

French health minister Roselyn Bachelot has stated that the current state of alert is appropriate, given the potential risk to human life posed by influenza.

Authorities fear the virus may spread across Europe and cause a pandemic, as was seen in Asia and Europe last year.

Following the outbreak of 2006, 13 EU members (namely Austria, Britain, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia and Sweden) had all confirmed cases of bird flu.

In April last year, France found that more than 60 wild birds at a farm with 11,000 turkeys were infected with H5N1. Globally, where it has spread to humans, the virus has killed almost two thirds of the 300 reported cases, according to the WHO.

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