Wednesday, October 26, 2005 Posted: 0217 GMT (1017 HKT)

【(CNN) -- The European Commission has announced a ban on imports of

live birds as China announces its third outbreak of bird flu in a week

and Indonesia confirms its fourth human death from the virus.】



The latest Chinese outbreak killed 545 chickens and ducks in central

China and prompted authorities to destroy nearly 2,500 other birds,

the government reported.


The latest cases occurred in a village in Hunan province, the

government's top veterinary bureau said in a report dated Tuesday

and posted on the Web site of the Paris-based World Organization for

Animal Health.


China earlier told the United Nations that 2,100 geese in the eastern

province of Anhui were infected, news agencies reported Tuesday.


More than 500 of the birds died and 45,000 were culled.

China last week reported another outbreak had emerged in the country's

northern region of Inner Mongolia. Some 2,600 chickens and ducks were

found dead at a breeding facility.


There have been no reports of human cases of bird flu in China.

The government's report on the Hunan outbreak did not say whether

authorities imposed quarantines or took other measures in addition to

destroying birds, according to AP.


Meanwhile, European Union officials, meeting in Luxembourg, called for

a ban on commercial imports of live birds into the 25-nation bloc.

A committee of EU veterinarians gave their backing to the proposal

Tuesday, the commission said.


The decision followed confirmation that a parrot in Britain died in

quarantine from the H5N1 strain.



"The ban covers captive live birds other than poultry imported for

commercial purposes," the European Commission said in a statement.


"A separate decision regulates the movement of (pet) birds accompanying

their owners which will be subject to certain conditions."

The commission has already imposed a temporary ban on imports of live

poultry, game and feathers from Croatia after at least six swans died

there from bird flu.


The swans landed in Croatia recently, but it is not known where they

migrated from. Thirteen more swans have been found dead nearby.


Meanwhile, dead wild geese in western Germany showed preliminary

positive test results for a form of bird flu, a local health official

said Tuesday, but they died from poisoning, not the virus.


Further tests would be needed to confirm the virus and to tell whether

it was the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu, The Associated Press quoted

Stefan Brent, president of the bureau carrying out the testing, as

telling a news conference in Koblenz in the state of Rheinland-Pfalz.


Brent said about 5 percent of wild birds could be expected to carry

some form of bird flu, and he said the test results were "no sensational

find."



Also Tuesday, Indonesia said testing had confirmed that a man who died

last month was positive for bird flu, raising the number of deaths

from the virus in the country to four.


The latest victim, a 23-year-old from Bogor, West Java, was hospitalized

in late September and died two days later, Hariadi Wibisono, a Ministry

of Health official told The Associated Press on Tuesday. A Hong Kong

lab confirmed the test results.


The lethal H5N1 strain that has decimated the bird industry in Asia and

has reached Europe first surfaced in Hong Kong in 1997, before

re-emerging in 2003 in South Korea. Since then it has spread to

Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, China, Indonesia, Cambodia, Russia, Turkey

and Romania.


While the bird flu has devastated the bird population, there have only

been 121 cases where the flu has jumped to people since 2003. Of those

, more than 60 have died, all after close contact with sick birds.


However, experts fear the virus could mutate into a form that could

be transmitted between humans, triggering a global pandemic.


The latest developments in Europe and Asia came as health ministers

from around the world met in Canada to discuss how to tackle a

possible pandemic.


They emphasized that preventing the disease from mutating into a deadly

human virus was as important as developing new vaccines against it.



Also Monday, Russia's Tambov region confirmed an outbreak of the same

deadly bird flu strain, a senior regional animal health official said.


The region is located 400 kilometers (250 miles) southeast of Moscow.


"Laboratory tests have confirmed the presence of the H5N1 strain ...

in some dead fowl tissue samples," the official told Reuters.

He said the disease killed 12 hens at a dacha in Morshansk district

last week, after which local veterinary authorities destroyed

53 ducks and hens remaining in the area, and imposed a quarantine on

it.



Moscow confirmed last Wednesday an outbreak of H5N1 in the Tula region,

some 200 kilometers south of the Russian capital.

Russia has been fighting bird flu since mid-July and has killed more

than 600,000 domestic fowl.


Because there is no vaccine for a bird flu should it mutate to spread

between humans, several countries around the globe have started

stockpiling the antiviral or treatment drug called Tamiflu in a bid

to mitigate its effects.


The World Trade Organization in 2003 decided to allow governments to

override patents during national health crises, though no member state

has yet invoked the clause, The Associated Press reported.


India's government said it may consider whether to override Roche's

patent protections and allow drug manufacturers to copy Tamiflu.



***Other developments***


In France, the government said poultry in areas at risk from contact

with migratory birds should be kept inside where possible until

December 1. It also said it was tightening controls of suspicious

bird deaths and expanding surveillance of wild and domestic birds.



Thailand's government will dispatch 1.3 million health workers and

volunteers across the country to contain a bird flu outbreak that has

killed 13 people, AP reported. The Health Ministry said the operation

will take place 21 provinces.


Sri Lanka said Tuesday it had temporarily banned poultry imports from

countries affected by the bird flu. "We have temporarily banned these

items from coming in. They include birds, poultry products and feather

s," said S.K.R. Amarasekara, the chief of Sri Lanka's Animal Production

and Health Department.


(Copyright 2005 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be

published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press

contributed to this report.)




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