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August 25, 2005

Russia steps up measures to contain bird flu. (BIRDFLU-RUSSIA) 2005-08-25 08:22:26



By Aleksandras Budrys

MOSCOW, Aug 25 (Reuters) - Russia is stepping up measures to contain the spread of the deadly bird flu virus amid signs the outbreak is stabilising, Russia’s chief epidemiologist said on Thursday, but Kazakhstan said it was probing possible new cases.

“Deaths of wild fowl continue to occur, although less intensively,” Gennady Onishchenko, head of Russia’s state consumer rights watchdog and top epidemiologist, told reporters.

“In Russia, we intend to keep the current situation within the existing framework, and will try to reduce the affected area through culling all domestic birds until wild fowl leave the country."

He said birds would start migrating from Russia from the second half of September.

The H5N1 strain, which is potentially dangerous to humans, has been officially registered in six Russian regions in Siberia and the Urals, causing the deaths of nearly 14,000 wild and domestic fowl.

Onishchenko said epidemiologists were still trying to establish whether deaths of wild fowl in a seventh region, the Caspian republic of Kalmykia, were caused by bird flu.

He played down a report that bird flu had been found in a wild duck shot in yet another region, saying that practically all wild ducks might carry some strain of the virus but that it may not necessarily be the strain dangerous to humans.

Bird flu has also spread to neighbouring Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan’s Agriculture Ministry said on Thursday it was treating the deaths of around a dozen wildfowl in the south of the country as suspicious and was testing the animals.

Seven villages in the north of the sprawling Central Asian state have been quarantined after an outbreak of H5N1.

A spokesman said the dead birds, ducks and gulls, had been found in the Almaty Region near Lake Alakol on the Chinese border, 380 km (240 miles) northeast of the biggest city Almaty.

“Our specialists have taken materials and sent them to the laboratory,” he said.



MASS CULL

Russia has culled some 130,000 domestic birds since July 21, when the first reports of the flu appeared.

Onishchenko said a quarantine had been lifted from nine out of 91 affected localities, in which all domestic birds had been destroyed and no new deaths of wild fowl had been registered. He said the quarantine would be lifted in more areas next week.

No cases of human infection have been registered so far, but the country had to be prepared for the possibility, Onishchenko said. H5N1 has killed at least 50 people in Asia since 2003.

Onishchenko said health authorities would supply equipment for detecting the H5N1 virus in humans to medical laboratories throughout the country.

The authorities also plan to vaccinate more people this year to protect against annual outbreaks of human influenza that sweep Russia in winter.

“We normally vaccinate some 20 million people. I hope this year we will have more due to bird flu fears,” Onishchenko said.

(Additional reporting by Raushan Nurshayeva in Kazakhstan)

REUTERS Reut12:22 08-25-05

Copyright: (c) TWP, AP, Reuters, others as appropriate

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Posted by dymaxion at August 25, 2005 12:59 PM

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