Bird Flu Hits British Exports Hard | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 07.02.2007
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Bird Flu Hits British Exports Hard

British authorities have hurried to reassure the world that it has bird flu under control, after an outbreak in Suffolk resulted in six countries suspending imports on British poultry.

Strong protections activated on British turkey farms

Strong protections activated on British turkey farms

The outbreak of the deadly H5N1 strain in Britain comes just weeks after the deadly virus was discovered on a goose farm in south-eastern Hungary, in the first detection of the disease in the EU since August 2006.

A cull of 160,000 domestic turkeys has now been completed, and environment secretary David Miliband has moved to restore public confidence.

'"The risk to the general public is judged by health experts to be negligible. In particular the Food Standards Agency advice is that there is no risk in eating any sort of properly cooked poultry including turkey and eggs."

EU checks defenses

It's not yet known how the disease arrived in Britain but veterinary experts investigating the infection suspect it was brought in by wild birds. In the wake of the recent infections EU veterinary experts were reviewing Europe's defences against the deadly virus amid fears that it could spread across the 27-nation bloc.

Bird flu has been most devasting in Asia

Bird flu has been most devasting in Asia

The European Commission voiced satisfaction on Monday with British authorities' handling of the outbreak, which under EU rules adopted in February last year, authorities are supposed to set up a three-kilometre (1.8-mile) protection zone and 10-kilometre surveillance zone around the site of an outbreak. Meanwhile, infected birds must be culled, other farmers are to keep poultry indoors and strict movement controls are put in place.

Deadly strain

The H5N1 strain of avian influenza can be transmitted to humans and has killed more than 164 people worldwide since 2003, with Indonesia being the worst hit. EU Health Commissioner Markos Kyprianou stressed to the community that although other outbreaks among birds were likely in the EU, a human pandemic was not about to sweep across the continent, and authorities were ready to respond to any outbreaks.

"We should never feel that we are safe in a sense of having eradicated it but we have the system in place," Commissioner Kyprianou said.

Bad for business

Bird flu also has severe economic consequences. Despite the swift British action to contain the virus, Japan, Russia, the Ukraine, Hong Kong, South Korea, South Africa and Jersey have all slapped import bans on British poultry, although consumers in Britain appear to have remained calm, with poultry sales remaining stable.

Last year, the French were more fearful. When the virus was discovered on a Turkey farm near Lyon in February 2006, sales plunged by a third, and didn't recover until July.

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