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Bird-flu worker in the clear

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NEW: Employee will be treated under normal clinical care, authorities say
• Tests conducted as "precautionary measure," says department spokesman
• Patient worked on avian-flu outbreak
• 271 human cases of bird flu reported worldwide, most of them fatal
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- A British veterinary employee hospitalized for a "mild respiratory illness" after working on a weekend outbreak of avian flu does not have the deadly strain of the virus, authorities said Wednesday.

"Tests for avian flu and normal seasonal flu were negative and this patient will now be treated under normal clinical care," the British Health Protection Agency said.

Those treating the employee faced no risk, said Dr. John Watson, the chief of respiratory illnesses for the HPA, said earlier. And safety precautions taken by workers ensured a low risk of being exposed to the H5N1 virus found on a turkey farm northeast of London, he added.

"Avian flu is just one of the tests our laboratory will be carrying out to try and establish the cause of this respiratory infection," Watson said in a written statement. "It should be remembered that chest infections and fevers are common in Europe at this time of year when ordinary seasonal flu circulates."

The tests were being conducted "purely as a precautionary measure," said Aled Williams, spokesman for the British Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

The patient works for Britain's State Veterinary Service, an agency within that department.

All workers who work in infected areas are outfitted with respiratory equipment and eyewear, said Williams.

British officials announced Saturday that the H5N1 virus was behind the deaths of 2,500 turkeys on a farm near the town of Lowestoft, about 120 miles northeast of London.

The remainder of the 160,000 birds were being culled to prevent the further spread of the disease, and veterinary officials were enforcing a "protection zone" around the farm. (What what British farmers are doing to protect their poultry Video)

Officials from the U.N.'s World Health Organization have confirmed 271 human cases of bird flu worldwide, 165 of them fatal. Most of the deaths have been in southeast Asia, though the latest fatality was a 22-year-old woman in the Nigerian city of Lagos.

Though WHO officials fear that the H5N1 virus could mutate and spread from human to human, most people who have contracted avian flu got it by handling diseased or dead birds.

CNN's Daniela Berretta contributed to this report.


story.farm.jpg

Government vets walk though a Bernard Matthews turkey farm Monday in Halesworth, England.

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