| A girl watches a pet rooster perched on a shanty rooftop in Manila on Friday. WHO’s western Pacific director Shigero Omi said birds living in cramped spaces with their owners is helping spread the virulent H5N1 strain of the virus. (AFP)
Ankara, Oct. 14 (Reuters): European Union experts held crisis talks on the spread of the bird flu to examine the risk migratory birds might pose for the region.
The meeting was expected to approve measures to combat the spread of the disease by requiring EU member states to reduce contact between poultry and wild birds in high risk areas, the EU Commission said. This could include keeping poultry indoors.
Turkish medical staff today tested nine people for possible bird flu a day after European health officials confirmed what many had long feared ' the arrival of the deadly H5N1 strain on Europe’s doorstep.
The spread of the disease from Asia was a “troubling sign”, US health secretary Mike Leavitt said, and the world must work harder to prepare for a potential flu pandemic among humans.
The European Commission yesterday advised Europe to prepare for a pandemic while Turkey’s Prime Minister urged his country not to panic.
Turkish health officials kept nine people from the western town of Turgutlu under observation and tested them after 40 of their pigeons died, state-run Anatolian news agency said.
“There is no sign of illness in the nine people, but we have taken all the people who have been in contact with the birds under observation,” the agency quoted local health official Osman Ozturk as saying.
No human cases of the disease have been reported in Europe and the major threat of a human pandemic is still in Asia, experts believe. Bird flu has killed more than 60 people in Asia since 2003.
Turkey has bird flu in its poultry but Romania must now wait until tomorrow because of a customs delay to find out if it has the same virulent H5N1 strain.
The World Health Organisation said the spread of the virus to Europe’s fringes had increased the chances of human cases. “It represents a call to arms on human health,” Mike Ryan, director of WHO’s alert and response operations, said. “It’s not a time for panic, it is a time for action.”
Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said his country could serve as a regional bird flu vaccine centre to save every country having to build up its own stockpiles.
“If we would form a networking of stock, and we can borrow each other’s if things are happening some place, that might be a better way out instead of every country trying to have their own stockpile,” Thaksin said on a visit to Finland.
To calm the public, the Turkish and French Prime Ministers made a point of eating chicken. “Every necessary precaution has been taken from the very first moment both in the place where the illness was first detected and against the possibility that it could spread,” Erdogan told reporters in Ankara.