Sunday, December 18, 2005

News - Ukraine considers tougher measures against bird flu

Ukrainian officials on Saturday considered intensifying measures to contain an outbreak of the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu affecting more than a dozen villages in the Crimea peninsula.

Agriculture Ministry spokesman Olesksander Horobets said a specialised laboratory in Britain had confirmed results provided by Russian academics -- that the virus detected in Crimea was H5N1, potentially dangerous to humans.

He said Farm Minister Oleksander Baranivsky was in Crimea helping draft measures to preventing the virus from spreading.

"The minister believes that the measures taken earlier on preventing flu are insufficient," Horobets said by telephone.

"The question of imposing a quarantine throughout Crimea is now under discussion. A decision will be descussed today and it could be formally adopted next Tuesday."

President Viktor Yushchenko invoked a state of emergency in several villages after bird flu was detected, with teams of specialists going from house to house to seize and slaughter birds. Exclusion zones were set up and patrolled by police.

But villagers complained that birds had been falling ill since September with officials taking no action. Ukraine's chief veterinary officer was then dismissed.

Horobets said officials were examining new moves throughout Crimea, including confiscation and fines to ensure residents kept fowl inside to avoid contact with migratory birds.

The Emergencies Ministry says 15 villages have been affected by the virus. Mass deaths among domestic birds have been noted in 15 further villages in Crimea, a peninsula jutting into the Black Sea and a a major stopping point on migratory routes.

A Ministry statement said more than 62,000 birds had been seized and destroyed.

The equivalent of more than a quarter of a million dollars in compensation had been handed out, with payments ranging from $3 for a chicken to $18 for a turkey. Doctors had vaccinated nearly 30,000 residents against seasonal flu.

Cases of H5N1 have also been detected in adjacent Romania and Russia. Romanian officials said new cases of one type of virus had been found about 90 km (55 miles) east of Bucharest.

Several of Ukraine's neighbours have imposed a ban on food imports from Crimea and adjoining regions.

Bird flu is endemic in poultry in parts of Asia where it has killed more than 70 people. It remains hard for people to catch, but experts fear it could mutate into a form which passes easily from person to person.

Global Coverage Article


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