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Russia bird flu could spread to Europe

A strain of bird flu dangerous to humans could spread to parts of the European Union from Siberia, a senior Russian veterinary official warned.
/ Source: Reuters

A strain of bird flu dangerous to humans could spread to parts of the European Union from Siberia, a senior Russian veterinary official warned on Monday.

Chances were “very high” the strain found in the Novosibirsk region could spread to other parts of Siberia, the official from the Russian Veterinary and Phytosanitary Inspection Service told Reuters.

“There is also a possibility that bird flu could spread to the European Union as (infected) wild birds from China may have been in contact in Russia with birds that will fly on to the Netherlands, France and elsewhere,” the official said.

“North America is not safe either, as some birds from Russia fly there, too,” said the official who did not wish to be named.

The official said it had been confirmed on Friday that birds in the Novosibirsk region were infected with the H5N1 strain of bird flu, which is dangerous to humans, and not with H5N2, as had previously been believed.

Bird flu is split in strains such as H5 and H7, which in turn have nine different subtypes. H5N1 subtype is highly pathogenic and can be passed from birds to humans, although there have been no known cases of human to human transmission.

More than 50 people have died in Asia from H5N1 since late 2003, raising fears it could mutate and form the basis of a global epidemic.

Later, the Agriculture Ministry said bird flu had also been found in poultry in a farm in another region, Altai, between Novosibirsk and Kazakhstan.

“A quarantine has been imposed in all the affected locations, and necessary measures are being taken to isolate the pockets of infection,” the statement said.

No human cases yet
It said that heads of regional veterinary services have been instructed to organize measures to prevent the spreading of the disease.

Veterinary officials were examining samples taken on farms in other Siberian regions where migrating wild birds from China may have landed.

The official said neighboring Kazakhstan, where deaths of poultry and wild birds in the northern Pavlodar region have been registered last month, may also have a bird flu strain similar to Russia’s.

“We have been in contact with the Kazakhs. The probability that they have the same type of virus is very high, as some birds fly to Russia from China through Kazakhstan. But it will take some time to have it confirmed,” the official said.

A spokesman for the Russian emergencies ministry said on Monday that so far no cases of humans being infected with bird flu had been registered.

He said over 2,000 birds died of the virus in 18 villages in Novosibirsk region. Experts were also checking cases of deaths of poultry and wild birds in the neighboring regions of Omsk and Altai.