updated 7/7/2006 9:44:57 AM ET 2006-07-07T13:44:57

Spain has recorded its first case of H5N1 bird flu, the Agriculture Ministry said Friday. The deadly strain was found in a water fowl in a marsh area outside the northern city of Vitoria.

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A protective area of 2 miles was declared outside the area where the bird — known as a great crested grebe — was found, the ministry statement said.

Spanish officials said late last year, as bird flu spread to several European countries, that it was only a matter of time before the disease made it to this country, which is on the route of northern-bound migratory birds from Africa.

Preventive measures taken so far had included banning outdoor poultry farming within a 6-mile radius of marshlands where migratory birds tend to gather.

Bird flu has killed at least 131 people worldwide since it started ravaging Asian poultry farms in late 2003, according to the WHO. Most human cases have been linked to contact with infected birds, but experts fear the virus could mutate into a form that makes it more easily transmissible among humans.

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