Romania Confirms Outbreak of Deadly Bird Flu Strain
15 October 2005
Romania says a bird flu virus, which was detected this week in its Danube Delta region is the same lethal strain, which has spread across Asia and killed dozens of people there. The confirmation comes just days after Turkey announced a similar discovery.
Romanian television news channel Realitatea interrupted its regular programming Saturday to announce the findings.
The bird flu outbreak in Romania was discovered in the Danube River Delta village of Ceamurlia de Jos, about 300 kilometers east of the capital, Bucharest.
Authorities quarantined the village this week, after Romanian veterinarians discovered that ducks developed symptoms associated with the virus.
After days of uncertainty, Romania's agriculture minister, Gheorghe Flutur, told Realitatea television that samples sent to a laboratory in Britain confirmed the virus was the H5N1 strain that has killed more than 60 people in Asia since 2003.
The discovery has lead to concern within the European Union, as Romania's Danube River Delta is Europe's biggest wetland and hub for migrating wild birds. Experts say many birds also move to warmer areas in North Africa, including the Nile delta for winter.
Scientists fear the H5N1 virus could mutate into one, which spreads easily among humans, possibly creating a pandemic.
Romania has asked the Swiss firm Roche Holding AG to provide 45,000 doses of the Tamiflu antiviral drug as a precautionary move, while the World Health Organization offered 1,000 doses at no cost.
The bird flu discovery has already had an economic impact on Romania, an impoverished nation, which hopes to join the EU in 2007, and other nearby countries. The European Commission banned live bird imports from Romania, after taking a similar measure against Turkey.
In Hungary, Romania's only EU neighbor, poultry producers said consumption had dropped up to 15 percent, and exports were down, amid fears the bird flu could spread here, as well.
Hungary has said all trucks carrying poultry, which transit through Romania will be disinfected at the border, in hopes of preventing the spread of bird flu across Europe.
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