Ukraine on Wednesday confirmed for the first time that outbreaks of bird flu in 11 Crimean villages were the deadly H5N1 strain that has jumped from bird to humans in Asia and killed at least 69 people.
Laboratory tests confirmed the lethal strain was present in 11 out of the 25 villages where bird deaths have been recorded on the Black Sea peninsula, said Ukraine Health Ministry spokeswoman Anna Trubachova.
A Russian veterinary official last week had provided similar confirmation, citing tests conducted at a Russian laboratory. But Ukraine had refused to confirm the report, saying it was waiting for results from a British laboratory.
Ukraine recorded its first case of bird flu on Dec. 4 after some 2,500 birds died on the Black Sea peninsula. The area affected is covered by marshy wetlands near the Azov Sea and is a popular resting place for migratory birds.
Experts fear the H5N1 strain of bird flu could trigger a human flu pandemic if it mutates into a form that is easily spread between people. Since 2003, the virus has killed at least 69 people in Asia — most of them farm workers who came into close contact with infected birds.