Authorities quarantined two villages in southeast Romania on Friday after four chickens tested positive for an H5 subtype of bird flu, an official said. The virus was first detected late Tuesday in quick tests in the village of Stelnica, some 140 kilometers (about 90 miles) east of Bucharest, in a sign that the virus was turning up west of the Danube Delta, where the deadly H5N1 strain of the virus was first confirmed in October.
"The virus was confirmed by the national laboratory and today we began the isolation of the affected area," said Gabriel Predoi, who heads the National Animal Health Agency. He said about 900 birds will be culled in 26 farms in the village by the end of the day. On Friday, the H5 virus was also detected in quick tests on poultry in a household in the nearby village of Stefan Voda, the Agriculture Ministry said.
Samples from the villages will be sent to Britain for further testing to see if the virus is H5N1, which is being tracked worldwide out of fear that it could mutate into a form that is easily transmitted to humans. Since 2003, the strain of bird flu has ravaged flocks of birds in Asia and killed at least 71 people there,most of them farm workers in close contact with birds. 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.
Predoi said that the low temperatures and snow falls in recent days will probably force migratory birds to leave the Danube Delta region. 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 along migration routes, reports the AP. N.U.