Balkan countries preparing to possible bird flu outbreak after confirmation of decease in Turkey, Romania

Health and customs checks were heightened across the region following the confirmation of bird flu in nearby Turkey and Romania, but governments urged the public to remain calm. Zheko Baichev, head of Bulgaria's National Veterinary Service, urged small farmers to keep chickens confined.

In Bulgaria, which neighbors both affected countries, authorities seized 255 kilograms (562 pounds) of frozen duck meat hidden in a truck at the Bulgarian-Turkish border crossing of Lesovo.

The discovery raised fears that smugglers in the region could try and dump banned poultry in other European countries. The European Union has banned the import of live birds, poultry meat and feathers from Romania for at least six months. A similar ban was imposed earlier this week on Turkey.

Authorities have banned wild bird hunting and are closely monitoring wild migratory birds.

In neighboring Greece, Health Minister Nikitas Kaklamanis urged the public not to deplete pharmacy stocks of conventional flu vaccines, the AP reports.

Health inspectors were testing five dead and sick birds found on a Portuguese cargo ship at Athens' main ports of Piraeus, authorities said. Greek state veterinarians on Thursday also canceled a planned strike to avoid hindering inspections.

Authorities in Albania and Macedonia stressed in public health advisories that no cases of the virus had been found in the two countries, and that emergency preparations had been made. A.M.