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EU health chief: No need to panic over bird flu

The European Union’s health chief told Europe on Friday not to panic over the threat of bird flu, saying the risk of the disease passing to humans from food was “very limited, non-existent”.
/ Source: Reuters

The European Union’s health chief told Europe on Friday not to panic over the threat of bird flu, saying the risk of the disease passing to humans from food was “very limited, non-existent”.

Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner Markos Kyprianou was responding to reports Italian poultry farmers said a “mass psychosis” based on unjustified fears about consuming poultry products had brought their industry close to collapse.

“It’s the consumers who are panicking, the farmers worry,” he told Reuters during a trip to Lithuania.

“Look at me, I eat eggs and chicken. The possibility of being infected through food is very limited, non-existent, (because) we have such high food hygiene measures in the European Union,” he said.

He made his comments on the day Romania confirmed its second case of bird flu. A heron found dead near the border with Moldova tested positive for the H5N1 flu virus.

The deadly H5N1 avian flu strain has killed more than 60 people in four Asian countries and been found among birds in Croatia, Romania, Turkey and Russia. No human cases have been reported in Europe.

Greece and Germany are also testing dead birds.

Kyprianou said it was premature for him to comment on tests involving the specific case in Greece.

But he said he had wider concerns that fears about bird flu could unnecessarily hurt the European poultry industry.

Although Brussels had been told by scientists to prepare for a possible future pandemic, the EU was better prepared than any other region in the world.

Kyprianou said he could not exclude the possibility of other cases of bird flu occurring in Europe.

“Up until now in the European Union we haven’t had any cases in domestic poultry, only in migratory birds,” he said.

“But we cannot exclude the possibility of having them in domestic poultry and that should not shock or panic us.”