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Germany

EU Considers Wild Bird Import Ban

The European Commission is facing increasing pressure to ban all wild bird imports after new cases of bird flu appeared in Russia, Croatia and British quarantine.

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As the bird flu danger spreads, the EU is under pressure to act

"The commission is currently considering the issue. It will decide by Tuesday," said spokesman Stefaan de Rynck.

The executive arm of the European Union already has various bird import bans in place for Romania, Russia, Turkey and Thailand, countries which have had confirmed cases of the lethal H5N1 bird flu strain, responsible for the deaths of more than 60 people in southeast Asia, the latest a man in Thailand.

It is also preparing a similar ban for Croatia, where a new bird flu outbreak was announced on Friday with test results awaited for the H5N1 strain.

Russia also reported a new cases of the virus at the weekend.

On Friday, British authorities announced that a parrot that died in quarantine had been infected with bird flu.

Britain's proposal for the EU ban on live wild bird imports will be raised at an EU agricultural ministers' meeting in Luxembourg on Monday and Tuesday.

The possible ban, which would not affect domesticated birds, will also be discussed by experts at a meeting of the EU food security committee on Tuesday in Brussels before a final decision is taken by the commission.

Copenhagen meeting

Health experts from more than 50 countries are set to gather in Copenhagen on Monday to assess the response to avian flu, amid concerns H5N1 could mutate into a form easily transmitted between humans, causing a global pandemic.

Vogelgrippe in der Türkei P178

A Turkish veterinary expert disinfects an area thought contaminated

Also Monday, in Ottawa, health ministers and experts from 30 countries are scheduled to meet to forge a coordinated international front against bird flu and to advance global preparations for a possible flu pandemic.

Ministers from China, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Nigeria, South Africa and the United States are expected as are representatives from the World Health Organization, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and the World Organization for Animal Health.

Croatian authorities continued Sunday to kill thousands of domestic birds in a three-kilometer (two-mile) radius around a lake near the eastern village of Zdenci where earlier six dead swans were found to have been infected by the virus.

Schwäne am Decksteiner Weiher in Köln

Swans have been infected in Croatia

Another five swans were found dead at a pond, also in eastern Croatia, and were sent to Zagreb for analysis. The result of the tests will be known on Monday or Tuesday.

A new outbreak of avian flu was detected over the weekend in Russia's south Urals region of Chelyabinsk. Thirty-one birds in the Sunaly village died, and in six cases bird flu was confirmed. In all, fowl in seven areas of Russia have been affected by the virus.

European efforts

Vogelgrippe Hühner Legehennen im Stall

Chickens in their barn near Hamburg

Germany has begun enforcing a temporary ban on outdoor poultry rearing, confining fowl to sheds with spot checks on farms and fines of up to the equivalent of $30,000 (25,000 euros) for violations.

The neighboring governments of Austria, Switzerland and the principality of Liechtenstein have banned rearing free range poultry for the next few months.

The French agency for food safety recommended increased scrutiny of wildlife, but stopped short of proposing poultry be confined.

New Asian outbreak

In China, there was another outbreak of the virus on a farm in its northern Inner Mongolia region, where 2,600 birds died, with 91,000 others culled.

Vogelgrippe in Kambodscha

Cambodian market vendor rips up a chicken for a customer at her stall

Officials in Beijing on Saturday began checking chickens, ducks, geese and even carrier pigeons being raised as pets in the city to make sure they were properly vaccinated or isolated, the Beijing Youth Daily reported.

President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao issued a directive for an all-out effort to prevent the spread of the virus.

Experts from Britain's Medical Research Council were Sunday set to leave on a 10-day trip to China, Vietnam and Hong Kong to look at the way the disease was being monitored there and how to improve cooperation.

The FAO has warned that migratory birds believed to be carriers may next take the virus to Africa, saying that the continent would be an "ideal breeding ground" because of close contact between people and animals.

Scientists fear Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda are particularly threatened as they host millions of migratory fowl flying to warmer climes during the European winter.

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