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EU Repeats Plea for Measures to Limit Spread of Bird Flu

14 October 2005

Medical researchers say a 14-year-old Vietnamese girl treated for bird flu has apparently developed a resistance to the anti-viral drug Tamiflu. That's according to a report published in the journal, Nature.

Many nations are stockpiling Tamiflu, on the advice of the United Nations' health agency, due to concerns about possible bird flu pandemic. This follows the news that the H-5-N-1 strain, blamed for the deaths of at least 60 people in Asia, has been detected among dead poultry in Turkey.

The European Union reiterated it’s warning to member states Friday\ to take special precautions, following the latest news about the spread of the H5N1 virus to Turkey. The EU guidelines are aimed primarily at curbing the spread of the virus from migratory birds to poultry. 

Philip Tod is an E.U. spokesman says, "This measure includes a requirement for member states to reduce the risk of possible contact between wild birds and poultry, especially in high-risk areas, such as wetlands, or other areas, known to be frequented by migratory birds. It will be up to member states to define which are the at-risk areas, and apply the necessary measures."

Thousands of turkeys and chickens have been culled in Turkey since the discovery of the H5N1 strain.  The Turkish government says it has contained the outbreak of the virus, which scientists’ worry might mutate into a human variation that could kill millions.

A form of avian flu has been detected in Romanian ducks, but Mr. Tod now says test results will not be available from a British lab until Saturday at the earliest. He cited customs procedures for the delay.

As experts on migratory birds and influenza held more meetings Friday in Brussels, Turkish medical officials announced that nine people from the western town of Turgutlu are being tested for bird flu, according to the state-run Anatolian news agency.

The agency has quoted one health official as saying that none of those people has shown signs of the virus.

The H5N1 strain does not easily infect humans, but 117 people, mostly poultry workers, have caught it over the past two years.

At least 60 people in Asia have died.

As poultry farmers across Turkey and Romania continue to hand over their birds for slaughter, and health officials disinfect vehicles and farmhouses, the World Health Organization sought to calm fears.

A spokesman said Friday the risk of humans being infected by bird flu is still "very low."

However, U.S. Health Secretary Mike Leavitt said no one knows the probability of a pandemic, but called the spread of the deadly strain from Asia to Turkey, a "troubling sign."

Meanwhile, Mr. Tod told reporters that the European Commission is sending teams of laboratory and veterinary experts to Bulgaria and Turkey, after those nations asked for the EC's assistance.

He said those teams would leave for those countries by early next week.

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