Ukraine sends bird flu samples to British laboratory

Ukraine on Thursday sent bird flu samples to a British laboratory to test for the deadly H5N1 strain, officials said. Ukraine recorded its first case of bird flu strain H5 on Saturday, and Agriculture Minister Oleksandr Baranivsky said then that samples had already been dispatched to laboratories for further tests. But officials said disarray in the veterinary department caused a delay.

"We've sent them only today as it is a long process to prepare samples and besides our vet department was out of control," said Oleksandr Horobets, spokesman for the Agricultural Ministry. Horobets said the test results from the British laboratory were expected in 10 days.

The outbreak of bird flu in marsh lands on Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula prompted President Viktor Yushchenko to declare a state of emergency in the affected villages and order a mandatory cull. Ukrainians officials said the first deaths of birds had been reported as early as mid-October, but central government authorities were notified only much later.

Yushchenko accused the country's chief veterinarian Petro Verbitsky of negligence, and had him fired on Wednesday. Also Thursday, the Emergency Situations Ministry said in a statement that it had completed the destruction of domestic birds in the three affected regions of Crimea.

Bird flu had been detected in neighboring Romania nearly two months ago, putting Ukrainian officials on high alert. Worldwide attention is focused on the H5N1 strain. That outbreak began in 2003 in Asia, where it has devastated flocks and infected humans, killing at least 68 people, reports the AP. I.L.

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