German officials have called in reconnaissance jets and deployed 250 soldiers to the Baltic Sea island of Rügen, where a total of 81 cases of dead birds infected with the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu have been found.
The outbreaks in northern Germany have alarmed authorities
While sixty soldiers specialized to deal with biological threats are disinfecting cars that leave affected areas, about 200 are searching the coast line for further carcasses. The military jets are meanwhile aiding in the search from above.
"The main goal is to stop the spread to domestic animals," a government spokeswoman said.
The H5N1 virus, which is potentially fatal to humans, was also for the first time detected on the mainland in the northeast state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. Two districts of the state declared a state of emergency, a measure which allows the army to be deployed there if required.
German military specialists have begun disinfecting vehicles
Agriculture Minister Horst Seehofer said ahead of a meeting with his EU counterparts in Brussels that the army had been called in because it was important to find and collect the dead birds as soon as possible.
Scavenging birds feeding on the carcasses of infected animals could spread the virus further, he added. Agriculture ministers from Germany's 16 regional states were to meet on Thursday to coordinate efforts to prevent the virus from spreading.
Fre n ch prepare for more cases
A dead duck found in France has tested positive for H5N1
Elsewhere in Europe, officials also scrambled to deal with the bird flu outbreak. France on Monday braced for further cases with test results due on around 15 wild birds, after the country confirmed its first case of the deadly strain of the virus at the weekend.
"There is a strong chance that we will find very shortly in France, as in Germany, many more cases of wild birds infected by the H5N1 virus," the health ministry said.
France is the sixth country in the European Union to confirm a case of the virus.
Europe battles to calm fears
European farm ministers tried Monday to calm consumer fears that bird flu would spread to poultry. While no poultry has been struck by the disease in the European Union, meat sales in the industry have plunged 70 percent in Italy, at least 40 percent in Greece, 15 percent in France and 10 percent in Portugal.
They're safe to eat, EU officials say
"We must not give in to panic," said Austrian Agriculture Minister Josef Proell, whose country holds the EU's rotating presidency. "The disease remains confined to wild birds."
While the virus has infected chickens on the EU's doorstep in Ukraine, Romania and Bulgaria, the outbreaks in Italy, France, Greece, Austria, Germany and Slovenia have only hit wild birds like swans and ducks. "There is no reason for European citizens not to consume poultry meat and poultry products," EU health commissioner Markos Kyprianou added. "We have to keep in mind that we are talking about an animal disease. It's not a human disease. It's a virus that is difficult to transmit to humans."