Three domestic ducks have died of bird flu in eastern Romania, but authorities said Friday they had not confirmed whether the birds were infected by the H5N1 strain that experts are tracking for fear it could mutate and spawn a human flu pandemic.
There are several strains of bird flu but only a few are deadly. Agriculture officials said they strongly suspected that tests now under way in Britain would confirm the birds were infected with H5N1.
If so, it would be the first time the virus strain has been detected in Europe.
Authorities worldwide are on alert for confirmed cases of fowl infected with H5N1 now circulating in parts of Asia.
H5N1 has infected 116 people in Asia, killing 60 — but experts are more worried the virus could mutate into a form that passes easily between people. That could trigger a human flu pandemic.
The best defense against a pandemic is to stamp out any outbreak in birds before the virus has a chance to change.
The dead birds were first noticed in the remote eastern village of Ceamurlia de Jos near the Black Sea in late September, Agriculture Minister Gheorghe Flutur said. Samples were sent to a lab in Bucharest, where scientists found antibodies to bird flu.
However, that lab did not have the capability to determine the exact strain of the virus, and sent the samples to Britain. Results were expected in the next few days.