It's just a matter of time before the deadly bird flu virus is transmitted between people, the UN says. As the flu reached Turkey and Romania, a German national task force is meeting Wednesday to discuss safety measures.
Romania has begun slaughtering birds out of fear of the flu
High level officials from the federal government and the German states are set to meet in Bonn to examine when emergency measures should be implemented and poultry quarantined. Environment Minister Jürgen Trittin, interim head of the consumer affairs and agriculture ministry, has said that the ministry is prepared for the worst and that a ban on poultry is, as yet, unnecessary.
He said that if the results of EU tests on infected Romanian and Turkish cases showed that they did indeed have the highly pathogenic H5N1 virus, "our emergency plans will immediately come into effect." The cases in Turkey are so far known to be infected with the H5 strain, the same one found in Asia. The disease has not confirmed been confirmed in Romania. The European Commission expects to have the test results later in the week.
Three German states, Lower Saxony, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and North Rhine-Westphalia, have already called on poultry owners in certain areas to voluntarily confine their fowl to stalls.
Vaccinating geese in Vietnam
The avian flu virus is transmitted through physical contact with infected birds and can be carried on clothes or shoes, for example, but not by air. Trittin called on visitors to Romania and Turkey to avoid going to places where poultry is bred.
Germany poorly prepared?
Bernhard Ruf, head doctor at Leipzig's St. Georg Clinic, warned that Germany only has enough medication for around 8-10 percent of the population. The World Health Organization, however, recommends that states have a reserve of medication for 20-25 percent," Ruf said in an interview with radio broadcaster Deutschlandfunk on Wednesday.
"There is a backlog of demand that must now be met," Ruf said. The government must take advantage of the time before a pandemic breaks out to prepare, he said.
Birds imported illegally present the greatest risk to Germany, according to the National Research Institute for Animal Health, the Friedrich Loeffler Institute. It's less likely that migratory birds will carry the virus from Turkey or Romania to Germany, particularly since they have begun flying south for the winter.
The EU has already banned poultry imports from countries where the H5N1 virus has been detected as well as live fowl and feather imports from Turkey.