1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Return of the Virus

DW staff based on wire reports (df)June 25, 2007

The newest outbreak of bird flu near Nuremberg could be linked to to the same deadly H5N1 strain found on a poultry farm in the Czech Republic last week. Officials urge caution, but say there is no need to panic.

The Asian strain of H5N1 claimed nearly 200 lives since 2003Image: picture-alliance/dpa

Veterinary experts confirmed on Sunday that six wild birds found dead in two lakes near the southeastern German city Nuremberg were infected with the deadly H5N1 virus.

A health official at the Friedrich Loeffler Institute said that tests were still being carried out on another five dead birds which tested positive for H5N1, but it was still unclear whether they were infected with the deadly Asian strain, which claimed nearly 200 lives since 2003 according to the World Health Organization.

Scientists fear that the virus could mutate into a form that makes human-to-human transmission possible, thereby setting off a global epidemic. In order to contain the spread of the deadly virus, hundreds of millions of birds have been slaughtered worldwide since the first cases were discovered.

No present danger to humans, but caution necessary

Germany's Agriculture Minister Horst Seehofer told the newspaper Münchner Merkur, that there was no need to panic, but warned against contact with infected animals.

"One thing is clear: The virus has not disappeared," he said.

A bird flu outbreak at the end of June is unusual said Werner Schnappauf, the regional minister of consumer affairs in Bavaria in an interview with dpa wire services.

Plakat Seuchengefahr Zutritt verboten auf Rügen Ausbruch Vogelgrippe
The infected area will be quaranteined for the next three weeksImage: dpa-Bildfunk

"With such warm temperatures, the virus can barely survive for a week -- in cooler weather, four weeks," he said, adding that there is no present danger for transmission of the virus to humans.

Local authorities had cordoned off the infected area where the diseased birds were found, which covers a radius of four kilometers (2.5 miles). The area will remain quarantined for the next three weeks.

Over the next few days the city of Nuremberg will be supported by a federal epidemiological team which will scientifically investigate the causes and background of the infection cases, city officials said. They also warned cat and dog owners to keep their pets from straying into the quarantine zone.

Possible link to last week's outbreak in Czech Republic

The new bird flu cases, which killed five swans and one goose, could be related to an outbreak of the same viral strain in the Czech Republic, which borders Germany to the west and is 120 kilometers away from Nuremberg. Last week, birds infected with H5N1 were found on a poultry farm in the central part of the Czech Republic, prompting authorities there to slaughter some 6,000 turkeys.

Last year in the spring, a bird flu epidemic had also broken out on the island of Rügen on the Baltic Sea and had spread to several other regional states in Germany, including Bavaria. The virus had infected other mammals, but did not spread to humans.

The last case of bird flu in Germany was reported last August in Dresden, which is close to the Czech border. An infected swan in the eastern city's zoo died.