Dozens of birds have deadly strain of bird flu H5N1 in five Romanian villages

Dozens of birds in five villages near the Danube Delta have tested positive for the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu, tests from Britain have revealed, an official said Thursday. "It has been established that the birds have the H5N1 strain" in Bumbacari, Dudescu, Ciocile, Periprava and Agighiol, said Gabriel Predoi, who heads the National Animal Health Agency. He told The Associated Press that results came back late Wednesday.

Bird flu was detected in the villages earlier this month. The H5N1 strain has decimated poultry and killed at least 69 people in Asia since 2003. Authorities are watching its spread, for fear it could mutate into a form easily passed between humans and spark a pandemic. Predoi said that the disease is being spread by migratory birds that have stayed around longer this year due to warm winter temperatures and lack of snow.

Romanian authorities have ordered villagers around the country to keep domestic birds indoors and issued stiff fines for those who disobey. Testing and monitoring of domestic fowl has been expanded to a larger area, especially on the migration routes.

So far, Romanian authorities have killed 55,000 domestic birds in areas where the virus has been detected. The culling, compensation and other measures have cost authorities Ђ3.6 million (US$4.2 million)

Birds in Turkey, Romania, Russia and Croatia recently tested positive for the deadly H5N1 strain in birds, but no human cases have been detected on the continent, reports the I.L.

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