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Lethal bird flu hits Turkey; Europe on alert
Updated: 2005-10-14 08:41

BRUSSELS - Europe scrambled to prevent a feared pandemic as the Asian bird flu strain that can kill humans reached the continent's southeastern borders.

While warning against panic, the European Union's executive branch immediately urged EU governments to stockpile anti-viral drugs, and said "at risk" people should ensure they are vaccinated against regular flu.

A Romanian peasant reacts to the killing of her domestic birds in Ciamurlia de Jos. The Asian bird flu strain that can kill humans has reached Europe's southeastern borders, the EU said as the bloc scrambled to prevent a feared all-out pandemic. [AFP]
The call to the EU's 25 nations came after tests confirmed that the highly pathogenic H5N1 strain of avian influenza -- the version that has killed over 60 people in Asia -- was confirmed in Turkey.

The European Commission also said it feared that the lethal strain had passed into Romania, which if confirmed would take it onto the European continent for the first time.

"We don't want to create a panic at this point .... it's a highly pathogenic aggressive virus, but we in the European Union have to deal with that," said EU health and consumer protection commissioner Markos Kyprianou.

The EU commission had already slapped on a ban on live bird imports on Turkey on Monday after it found bird flu there but before it had confirmed the particular strain.

It took a similar measure early Thursday against Romania after the presence of bird flu was confirmed, although further tests were under way to determine if that was also the H5N1 strain.

But only hours later came the bombshell: "We have received now confirmation that the virus found in Turkey is avian flu H5N1 high pathogenic virus," said Kyprianou.

"We will work today .. with the assumption that this is also the case in Romania," the commissioner added.

Romania lies to the north of Turkey along the Black Sea coast.
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