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Bird Flu

DW staff with wire reports (jam)June 24, 2007

The deadly strain of the bird flu virus has resurfaced in Germany in at least three birds the state of Bavaria. They are Germany's first confirmed cases this year.

A swan with its young on the bank of a lake in NurembergImage: AP

At least three water birds found dead in the Bavarian city of Nuremberg were infected with a strain of bird flu that can be lethal to humans, health officials said Sunday.

Local authorities established a four-kilometer exclusion zone around two lakes where eight wild swans, geese and ducks died in the past six days. Veterinary experts at the Friedrich Löffler Institute, the government's top veterinary laboratory, on the island of Riems in the north of Germany determined that two swans and a wild duck had contracted the H5N1 bird flu strain.

They were the first bird flu cases discovered in Germany this year, and the first report of wild birds infected this year within the European Union.

Tests on the other five animals were continuing. "I expect that these are infected, as well," said Karin Koester, spokeswoman for the office of veterinary medicine in Bavaria.

In the meantime, officials ordered that all poultry farmers in the exclusion zone keep their animals indoors. Pet owners were warned not to let their dogs or cats roam free in the affected area.

Czech outbreak

Nuremberg is located 120 kilometres from the border with the Czech Republic, where an outbreak of bird flu at a poultry farm was confirmed on Thursday.

Vogelgrippe zurück in Deutschland
A caution sign reading "Bird flu - don't touch or feed waterfowl!" is posted near a lake in NurembergImage: AP

The disease was discovered after nearly one-third of the 6,000 turkeys perished at the farm in the village of Tisova in the country's east. The rest of the flock was culled.

The last outbreak of bird flu in Bavaria occurred in April 2006. Last year, 13 EU members states had confirmed cases of bird flu.

Pharmaceutical companies in the United States and Europe have been contributing to a global stockpile of vaccine for the H5N1 strain.

Some 190 people around the world have died of bird flu since 2003, mainly through coming into close contact with infected poultry, according to the World Health Organization. None of the victims has been from Europe.

Bird flu has been spreading across southeast Asia, killing two people in Vietnam this months, the first deaths there since 2005.

Scientists fear the virus could mutate into a form easily transmissible between humans, which could touch off a global pandemic.