EU will help Romania to cope with spread of bird flu

The European Union pledged financial aid to help Romania fight against the spread of bird flu, an EU official said Friday, after birds on the Danube delta tested positive this week for a virus subtype.

Samples were being sent Friday to a British laboratory to determine if the birds died from H5N1, a strain scientists are tracking in migratory birds for fear it could mutate into a form easily transmitted between humans. H5N1 was discovered this week in Turkey.

A special shipment containing the sample was delayed in Bucharest for one day due to complicated customs and security procedures, Agriculture Ministry spokesman Adrian Tibu said. "It's expected to leave this afternoon," he said.

The European Commission "will financially support Romania. Bird flu is a problem for Europe, not just for Romania, a country which is in the process of joining the European Union," EU budget commissioner Dalia Grybauskaite told reporters in Bucharest. She did not give details about the aid.

The EU also has banned poultry imports from both Turkey and Romania. EU veterinary experts were expected Friday to recommend precautionary measures to prevent the spread of H5N1, which is highly contagious among birds but hard for humans to contract. Nevertheless, H5N1 has killed about 60 people in Asia, mostly poultry farmers infected directly by birds.

Romania's president assured that his country was ready to deal with a bird flu outbreak during the migration season, which lasts through December.

"You can trust in our capacity to keep the situation under control," Romanian President Traian Basescu said while attending a summit of central and southeast European presidents in Zagreb, Croatia.

The remote Ceamurlia de Jos area, where bird flu was first found in Romania, was under isolation, and thousands of birds have been culled as a precaution.

"Romania will prove it can deal with a difficult situation, even though the migration season has only started" and "millions and millions of birds will arrive in the Danube delta," Basescu said.


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