EU veterinary experts to prevent spread of bird flu

European Union veterinary experts were expected to endorse additional precautionary measures Friday to prevent the deadly bird flu virus strain H5N1 found in Turkey from spreading westward into the EU.

The experts, drawn from across the 25-nation bloc as well as from Turkey and Romania, were also awaiting the results of other tests from dead birds in Romania to see if they too were of the same virulent strain, which has been blamed for the deaths of 60 people in Asia.

Officials said final results on those samples were not expected until late Friday. Scientists fear the virus could mutate and lead to a human pandemic. The H5N1 strain does not easily infect humans, but 117 people in Asia, mostly poultry farmers, have caught it over the past two years.

New precautionary measures being proposed for the EU include tighter monitoring and controls on wild migratory birds, which are being blamed for the outbreak.

Poultry farmers in or near risk areas are also likely to be asked to keep their birds indoors and in some cases be asked to vaccinate their flocks. The EU head office is also proposing possible travel warnings and a ban on hunting.

EU Health Commissioner Markos Kyprianou has proposed to set aside Ђ1 billion (US$1.2 billion) to help make and distribute anti-virals and vaccines in case of a pandemic.

Kyprianou also urged health authorities across the EU to administer the standard flu vaccine to vulnerable populations: people over age 65, young children and those with weakened immune systems or chronic respiratory conditions and also those living near the outbreak sites, reports the AP. I.L.

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Author`s name: Editorial Team