"Both us and the European public have to learn to live with this problem, without any panic. We have the measures, we have the legislation, we have the experience to deal with similar problems. We have done so in the past, we can deal with it now and in the future," Markos Kyprianou, European Union's health chief, was quoted as saying at a press conference today.
Kyprianou assuaged fears, noting that the 25-nation bloc had adequate measures to contain the disease when it occurred and would eventually eliminate it. But this would take time, Kyprianou he cautioned.
"Given that the virus is everywhere now, it's a problem that will stay for some time," Kyprianou said. "There is no reason to panic even if we have cases in farmed or domestic poultry."
Earlier today, France confirmed it had found the H5 bird flu virus at another farm where thousands of turkeys had died and was testing if the virus was in fact the deadly H5N1 strain. If so, it would be the first confirmed case of H5N1 on an EU farm.
Kyprianou said he would launch a debate among European health ministers within the next two weeks about whether they wanted to create an EU-wide stockpile of antiviral drugs for emergencies like a sudden outbreak of bird flu among humans.
"The member-states could, of course, decide that they don't want to create a European-wide stockpile but that each one of them is creating their own national stockpiles. I see advantages in both approaches but it's really up to the member states to decide," Kyprianou said.
The World Health Organization has reported contamination by the deadly form of the virus in 13 new countries in February. The head of the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), the global watchdog for veterinary standards in farm trade, said bird flu could spread further around the world.
"We are witnessing a rapid change in the situation, characterized by the progressive change from an epidemic to a pandemic" of the animal virus, OIE Director General Bernard Vallat told the daily Le Monde in an interview today.
Meanwhile, in Ukraine, Ivan Bisiuk, head of the government's Department for Veterinary Medicine, said at a news conference this week that Ukraine would soon begin testing Chinese and Dutch vaccines against H5N1 and if they're positive, the country would start vaccinating its poultry. However, he said he is looking for immunizing the birds against the disease, not merely preventing their deaths.