Case of Bird Flu in Germany Ruled Out | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 03.02.2004
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Case of Bird Flu in Germany Ruled Out

After performing tests, health officials in Hamburg have determined that a women who returned from holiday in Thailand with flu-like symptoms is not suffering from the bird flu.


Direct contact with infected chickens is one transmission route.

After examining a woman who returned ill from her holiday in Thailand an institution for tropical medicine in Hamburg has determined that she is not suffering from the lethal avian flu that is raging in ten countries in south Asia.

A spokesman for the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine announced on Tuesday morning that the women was, in fact, suffering from run-of.the-mill human influenza.

Eyewitnesses said the woman was carried into the institute on a stretcher by paramedics wearing protective clothing and masks. Doctors at the institute described the patient’s condition as "good" and said the woman was suffering from "general flu symptoms" like nausea, dizziness and feverishness.

Experts doubtful it is really bird flu

From the start, experts generally ruled out the possibility that bird flu had arrived in Germany. On Monday, the head of the institute’s infectious diseases department, Clara Schlaich, told the news agency Reuters: "It’s very unlikely that a tourist has been infected with bird flu."

A spokeswoman for the Robert Kock Institute in Berlin added, "I’d say it was very unlikely, but unlikely does not mean impossible."

Nonetheless, institute president Reinhard Kurth warned travelers to Asia to be more careful. "There’s no travel warning. Tourists can and should still fly there, but they shouldn’t go to poultry farms and should keep away from live chickens at markets."


A Vietnamese vendor carries ducks through a market in Hanoi

The only transmission route known so far is exposure to live chickens, though experts fear that a new influenza pandemic could begin if humans became infected with a combination of human flu and bird flu viruses. Co-infection could then breed an entirely new virus that could spread rapidly from person to person.

Stocks jittery

News of the possible arrival in Germany of the lethal bird flu infection that has killed 12 people so far in Asia and seriously dented its chicken exports caused a slide in share prices of German national airline Lufthansa AG as well as travel giant TUI on Monday.

Shares in Lufthansa dipped by 4.5 percent to €13.79, making it the worst performer on the German stock exchange (DAX), while TUI shares fell by 3.5 percent to €18.39.

"Naturally, nervousness rose here," market analyst Heino Ruland told Reuters. Lufthansa analyst Jürgen Pieper said, "The bird flu can put a burden on the market here and the share price of Lufthansa," he said.

EU urges calm

The EU, which has already imposed a ban on chicken exports from Thailand and other affected Asian countries, stepped up its precautionary measures. It has now widened the ban to include migratory birds from Asian countries.

On Monday, the European Commission urged people to stay calm. "The most important thing is not to panic," a spokesman for the EU’s Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner David Bryne said.

With the ruling out of this case in Hamburg, a sense of calm may prevail.

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