France Confirms Occurrence of H5N1

The ministers discussed a continent-wide effort to vaccinate poultry, however, European Union financial aid is not available for vaccinating poultry as a preventive measure. Countries only qualify for EU aid after bird flu is found in commercial stocks and those stocks are killed, officials said.

EU officials also discussed the economic impact of bird flu and discussed whether the union should provide financial or other relief to businesses affected by the falling poultry prices.

Last week, the European Commission said two new measures designed to limit the disease had received favorable opinions from member states. A commission proposal to approve member states' individual surveillance plans for avian influenza, and to provide up to 50% co-funding for the programs was endorsed by the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health.

The measures include a three kilometer (1.9 miles) 'protection zone' around the place where the birds with H5 infection were found for at least 30 days along with a 10 km (6.2 miles) 'surveillance zone' for the next three weeks.

Within the protection zone, poultry must be kept indoors. All movement of poultry, excluding direct transportation to a slaughterhouse is banned. No meat may be transported outside the protection zone, the regulations state.

Officials have been reassuring the public that eating cooked poultry remains safe. In France, where a wild duck has tested positive for H5N1, French Health Minister Xavier Bertrand urged consumers to keep eating poultry and foie gras.

"No farms on our territory are affected" by bird flu, he said on LCI television.

However, farmers said consumption has fallen, causing hundreds of millions of dollars in losses. France's chief farmers' union demanded that the government free up funds to support poultry producers' efforts to prevent and fight the flu.

French authorities vowed on Sunday to spare no effort in combating a spread of deadly bird flu.

ONLY GENERIC FLU DRUGS AVAILABLE The country has said it will vaccinate some 900,000 birds but there is no specific vaccine to prevent H5N1, only generic flu drugs. Germany, meanwhile, deployed 250 troops to help clear away dead birds from Ruegen, an island in the Baltic Sea where 81 dead birds, mostly swans, have tested positive for H5N1.

Hungary also has reported five cases of suspected H5N1 and has sent samples to an EU reference laboratory for testing.

The world's second populous country, India, is also considering ways to stop the spread of the disease after it confirmed its first outbreak. Officials in the remote district of Nandurbar in western Maharashtra state launched a door-to-door check for people with fever, and continued a mass cull of between 300,000 and half a million birds.

Six people, including three young children, with flu-like symptoms were hospitalized on Monday, joining a woman and a child who were placed in an isolation ward the previous day.

Federal health secretary P.K. Hota said the government had stocked 100,000 courses of the antiviral drug Tamiflu and planned to source another 50,000. Nearly 100,000 chickens had been culled so far, he added.


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