Bird flu comes to Ukraine

A senior Ukrainian official on Tuesday defended President Viktor Yushchenko's decision to declare a state of emergency after a bird flu outbreak on the Crimean peninsula, rejecting lawmakers' questions that the move was excessive. Yushchenko put three Crimean regions under an indefinite state of emergency on Saturday after this ex-Soviet republic recorded its first case of type H5 bird flu.

"Today it is better to do much more than necessary than tomorrow to have this problem throughout the whole of Ukrainian territory," Emergency Situations Minister Viktor Baloga said during an emergency parliamentary session.

Baloga defended the government's response as "justified," even as lawmakers grumbled that when bird flu appeared in neighboring Russia, a state of emergency was not declared. They also complained that Yushchenko didn't specify when the emergency state would end. On Monday, Yushchenko suggested it would last two weeks.

Under the state of emergency, six villages near Sivash Lake, a marshy area that is frequented by migratory birds, were put under a quarantine. Movement was restricted, and a mandatory cull of all domestic fowl launched.

The Emergency Situations Ministry said Tuesday that the threat appears to have been contained, with no cases of bird flu appearing in any other Crimean region. As of Tuesday, 22,318 birds had been seized from village courtyards for destruction as part of the cull, emergency officials said. N.U.

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