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Russia bird flu could spread to EU - vet official
Updated: 2005-08-01 19:24

A strain of bird flu which is dangerous to humans could spread to parts of the European Union from Siberia, a senior Russian veterinary official warned, Reuters reported.

Chances were "very high" the strain found in the Novosibirsk region could spread to other parts of Siberia, the official from the Russian Veterinary and Phytosanitary Inspection Service told Reuters.

"There is also a possibility that bird flu could spread to the European Union," the official said.

"North America is not safe either, as some birds from Russia fly there, too," said the official who did not wish to be named.

The official said it had been confirmed on Friday that birds in the Novosibirsk region were infected with the H5N1 strain of bird flu, which is dangerous to humans, and not with H5N2, as had previously been believed.

Bird flu is split in strains such as H5 and H7, which in turn have nine different subtypes. H5N1 subtype is highly pathogenic and can be passed from birds to humans, although there have been no known cases of human to human transmission, according to Reuters.

More than 50 people have died in Asia from H5N1 since late 2003, raising fears it could mutate and form the basis of a global epidemic, Reuters reported.

He said neighbouring Kazakhstan, where deaths of poultry and wild birds in the northern Pavlodar region have been registered, may also have a bird flu strain similar to Russia's last month.

"We have been in contact with the Kazakhs. But it will take some time to have it confirmed," the official said.

Russian media reported on Monday that a poultry farm worker in Kazakstan could have bird flu. But a spokesman for the Kazakh Health Ministry said the man, who was taken to hospital on Saturday, was suffering from pneumonia.

A spokesman for the Russian emergencies ministry said on Monday that so far no cases of humans being infected with bird flu had been registered.

He said over 2,000 birds died of the virus in 18 villages in Novosibirsk region. Experts were also checking cases of deaths of poultry and wild birds in the neighbouring regions of Omsk and Altai.

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