Parrot in Britain dies of bird flu
It is believed migratory birds are spreading the flu. Here they appear in Milan.
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- The British government says a parrot imported from Suriname that died in quarantine two days ago was infected with the "highly pathogenic" H5 strain of bird flu.
It is not yet known if the virus is the same as the deadly Asian H5N1 strain found in Romania, Turkey and western Russia, which in some cases has jumped from birds to humans in Southeast Asia.
Because the bird was in quarantine, the UK's disease-free status is still in place, said Debby Reynolds, the country's chief veterinary officer.
Suriname, which sits on South America's northeast coast, has not reported the lethal H5N1 strain, according to the World Organization for Animal Health.
The bird was one of 148 parrots and "soft bills" that arrived in the country on September 16 for display and for collectors. Another parrot also died, but she did not know the cause.
Dispelling concerns, Ron Cutler, a bird authority at the University of East London, said the finding shows the "British quarantine system is working effectively."
Meanwhile, the European Union says it is preparing to ban poultry imports from Croatia after the country detected bird flu in some dead swans. The wild swans tested positive for the H5 virus, but it was not yet known if it was the deadly H5N1 strain. (Full story)
The swans landed in Croatia earlier this week, but it is not known where they migrated from.
The bird flu has killed more than 60 people in Asia over the past two years. The latest person to have tested positive for the deadly H5N1 strain was a seven-year-old boy in Thailand -- whose father died from the virus two days ago.
Hospital officials say the boy, who apparently helped his father slaughter and cook a chicken, is expected to recover.
Most of the human deaths have been linked to contact with sick birds. But experts fear the virus could mutate into a form that can be transmitted between humans, triggering a global pandemic.
As the scare over bird flu intensifies, Europe and Asia are ordering clampdowns on the movements of birds and people.
Hong Kong's border with China, one of Asia's busiest, might be sealed if the deadly H5N1 bird flu starts spreading from human to human, according to the South China Morning Post newspaper.
The H5N1 strain first surfaced in Hong Kong in 1997, then re-emerged in 2003 in South Korea, before spreading to Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, China, Indonesia, Cambodia, Russia and Europe.
Hong Kong has been a hotbed of virus alerts in recent years, including the outbreak of the SARS disease in 2003, which killed almost 300 people there. (Full story)
The H5N1 bird flu strain also infected 18 people in Hong Kong in 1997, six of whom died.
Consequently, Hong Kong's entire poultry population, estimated at around 1.5 million birds, was destroyed within three days. This is thought to have averted a pandemic.
In Europe, the EU has placed restrictions on bird markets and shows while urging nations to vaccinate zoo birds as part of increased measures to head off the spread of the disease.
EU foreign ministers have declared the spread of bird flu from Asia into Europe a "global threat" requiring international action. (Full story)
With the bird flu virus encroaching on Europe, health ministers from 25 European Union nations met on Thursday to talk about how to keep the virus from jumping to humans, and how to respond if it does.
After the talks outside London, Britain's Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt said the risk posed to people in Europe was "very low."
"The World Health Organization confirmed that there had been no increase in the risk of pandemic flu," she told reporters.
"But of course we have to ensure we are prepared in each of our countries."
No humans in Europe are known to have contracted bird flu during the current outbreak.
Several EU countries are already slaughtering suspect birds and Britain's chief medical officer Liam Donaldson described the possibility of a human flu pandemic "public health enemy No. 1 and we are on the march against it."
A U.N. agency warned that the risk of bird flu spreading to the Middle East and Africa has markedly increased following the confirmation of the Romanian and Turkish outbreaks.
Poultry from Turkey and Romania have already been banned by the European Union. Tests were also being carried out on birds in Bulgaria and Croatia.
On Friday, Australia imposed an immediate ban on live bird imports from Canada after a group of racing pigeons was found to have been exposed to diseases including bird flu. (Full story)
With demand for a treatment against bird flu far outstripping its capacity to produce it, Roche, the maker of Tamiflu has agreed to meet with four generic drug makers to arrange for them to produce the drug too. (Full story)
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