H5N1 bird flu virus confirmed in eight Moscow suburbs

Laboratory tests confirmed the lethal H5N1 bird flu strain in eight districts of the Moscow region. Nikolai Vlasov, head of agriculture oversight agency Rosselkhoznadzor, told reporters that increased awareness about bird flu had led to a rush of calls from people reporting bird deaths.

There were now eight territories where H5N1 has been confirmed, three of which were recently added, he said.

Russian news reports cited local officials as saying, meanwhile, that a ninth suburban district had reported poultry dying of bird flu. The report could not immediately be confirmed.

The virus, which began killing domestic birds in the Moscow suburbs on Feb. 9, has been traced to a single animal market just outside the capital.

The Emergency Situations Ministry said Wednesday that at least 333 domestic birds have died since Feb. 9, and an additional 1,833 have been killed at eight locations on Moscow's outskirts, the AP reports. 

Officials have enforced a quarantine around the affected districts, spraying down vehicle tires and vaccinating poultry.

Some residents of Ramenskoye, a town southeast of the capital, said they had seen no signs of dead poultry.

"I never noticed anything strange, or any signs of disease. They (chickens) are very healthy, they eat their food as usual, I give them snow instead of water," Lyudmila Gorbatova told Associated Press Television News.

No human cases of bird flu have been reported in Russia, which had its first reported cases of H5N1 in Siberia in 2005. Outbreaks have since occurred farther west, but mostly in southern areas far from the capital.

Since it began ravaging Asian poultry farms in late 2003, the H5N1 strain has killed at least 167 people worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.

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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov