Bird flu-infected bird found in Romania, close to Moldova

A heron has tested positive for an H5 strain of bird flu in eastern Romania near the border with Moldova, officials said Friday. Samples were being tested to determine whether it is the lethal H5N1 strain. The bird was found near the village of Falciu, said Ioan Zaharia, the local government representative in Vaslui County. Falciu is about 100 kilometers (60 miles) north of Cearmulia de Jos, a Danube delta town where domestic flocks were found infected with H5N1.

"It's possible that the bird came from Moldova and we may not have a new outbreak here," Zaharia said. He said he ordered all domestic birds to be kept indoors to avoid contact with migratory birds, some of which are believed to carry the virus.

Zaharia said he also ordered all local live animal markets be closed indefinitely.

Falciu is also near Maliuc, another Danube delta village where domestic flocks were found infected with H5N1. Authorities have killed all domestic fowl in the Cearmulia de Jos and Maliuc areas, which remain under quarantine.

If H5N1 strain is confirmed it would be the first time in Romania that it would be found in birds outside the delta area, a large wetland reservation where up to one million migratory birds arrive each year from Russia and other regions.

Meanwhile, authorities in central Romania revived an old tradition of hiring people to walk through the streets banging drums and crying out orders to keep fowl inside as a precaution.

Priests have also been enlisted to inform the public about bird flu and measures to prevent its spread, the AP says.

Authorities have issued fines to farmers who have not complied with the orders to keep fowl inside. Several mayors and local veterinarians were also fined for failing to inform the public about measures to prevent bird flu.