Deadly H5N1 virus continues to spread in Russian regions

Over 1.3 million birds have been culled in Russia since July of 2005 in connection with the ongoing spread of the deadly H5N1 virus, Interfax reports with reference to the Russian Emergency Ministry.

Outbreaks of bird flu have been registered three times in Russia during the above-mentioned period in various parts of Russia. “More than 1.3 million birds infected with the bird flu virus have been destroyed in the Russian Federation during the three periods of bird flu outbreaks. The virus has not affected any humans,” a message from the ministry said. The outbreaks of the lethal disease have been registered in the areas located along the flyways of wild birds migrating from Southeast Asia to the north and back.

The ministry currently controls the situation with the deadly virus in the south of Russia. Local farmers of the Stavropol region for example start culling their birds themselves when preliminary analyses showed the presence of the H5N1 strain on several local farms. “Farmers prefer not to wait for official lab results to arrive. They cull the birds themselves in an attempt to end the further spread of the virus. The virus has already killed hundreds of birds on several local poultry farms,” veterinary Viktor Parakhin said. “All hens and chickens have died at one of the farms in the region. However, all ducks and geese have stayed alive. The ducks and geese of that farm do not have any symptoms of the disease, but we will have to cull them as well because they can become the carriers of the dangerous infection,” the specialist said.

In the meantime, a dead swan has been recently found in the republic of Chechnya. Chechen veterinaries said that the bird had died of exhaustion. No incidents of mass bird flu infection have been registered in the republic yet. However, the Chechen government has formed a special committee to supervise the situation.

The deadly virus is mutating. German authorities have recently found the H5N1 avian influenza in the body of a cat in northern Germany.

Lethal bird flu reached the European Union last month with cases found in birds in Austria, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, and Slovenia, Bloomberg says. The H5N1 virus has been detected in poultry farms in Nigeria. Neighboring Niger this week confirmed its first case of bird flu among domestic fowl while Kenya and Ethiopia, in eastern Africa, are investigating possible outbreaks.

At least 93 of the 173 people known to have been infected with the H5N1 virus since late 2003 have died, mainly in Asia, the WHO said this week. The spread of the virus in birds creates more risk for human infection as people come into contact with poultry during slaughtering, plucking feathers, butchering or preparation for cooking.

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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov