Bird flu virus found in Iraq is not deadly H5N1

No cases of the deadly H5N1 strain of the avian influenza virus have been found in Iraq, and the country is taking every precaution to ensure infected birds no to enter the country, agriculture minister Ali al-Bahadli announded on Sunday.

"Iraq is free of bird," he said in a statement, adding that the health ministry and veterinary officials had set up a joint operations room to monitor the situation.

Bird flu fears have grown in Iraq since cases of H5N1 infected birds were confirmed in Turkey earlier this month. Last Friday, veterinary authorities in Erbil confirmed the first case of H5 avian influenza in Iraqi Kurdistan, near the border with Turkey. The head of the Erbil veterinary laboratory, Ilham Butros, told that preliminary positive analysis done locally on suspect birds had been confirmed by a dedicated bird-flu testing lab in Egypt.

Last Thursday Iraq announced a ban on poultry imports from 20 countries, amid fears that the deadly H5N1 strain of the virus might endanger the country, AKI reports.