Bird flu has been officially confirmed in two more Russian regions, and the disease may also be spreading in Northern Kazakhstan, officials said on Friday.
Health officials fear that a subtype of bird flu dangerous to humans may mutate into a lethal strain that could rival or exceed the Spanish flu pandemic that killed 20-40 million people worldwide at the end of World War One.
The presence of the highly pathogenic H5N1 subtype that can cause disease in humans has so far only been confirmed in one Russian region, Novosibirsk. But four other Siberian regions have been confirmed to have some sort of bird flu virus.
Russia’s Agriculture ministry said on Friday the disease had been confirmed in wildfowl in two locations in the Kurgan region and in one in the Omsk region. Bird flu has already been confirmed in the Altai and Tyumen regions.
The ministry statement said the virus found in Kurgan and Omsk did not appear to be highly pathogenic.
H5N1 bird flu has killed more than 50 people in Asia since late 2003, mostly in Vietnam. Bird flu has also led to the death of 140 million birds at a cost running to billions of dollars.
Russia has culled over 10,000 domestic birds in the last few days to stop the virus spreading, the emergencies ministry said.
The ministry said in a statement no new deaths had occurred among wildfowl and domestic poultry on Thursday in the Altai, Tyumen and Omsk regions.
However, 139 birds were found dead in Novosibirsk region.
Kazakhstan confirms virus' presence
Senior veterinary officials in neighboring Kazakhstan have confirmed bird flu has broken out in the Pavlodar region, bordering Novosibirsk.
Officials there said it was premature to say whether the Pavlodar outbreak was dangerous to humans.
But a disease with similar symptoms is already killing birds in neighboring regions.
Some 364 hens have died in a village in the eastern Kazakh region, while 37 wild ducks have been found dead at the Vinogradovka lake in the Akmola region, the Kazakh Emergencies Ministry said on its official Web site www.emer.kz
It said sanitary and veterinary controls were being heightened to contain the spread of the disease, while in Akmola 70 hens and 30 ducks living on private farms that may have been in contact with wild ducks had been destroyed.