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U.S. Provides Technical Aid to Help Ukraine Fight Bird Flu

The aid includes hazmat suits and reagents, the Ukrainian news agency reported. By the end of the month, the U.S. will provide an additional $27,000 worth of laboratory equipment.

U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine John Herbst, who presented the aid, described it as humanitarian and urged that it be used in the affected regions of the Ukrainian peninsula.

Citing the World Health Organization, Herbst noted that there have 137 incidences of human avian influenza around the world, of them 70 have been fatal. Inasmuch as there is no viable vaccination for humans, the threat of a pandemic is realistic, he added, pointing out that Ukraine is the 17th country to be affected by the disease.

Herbst called on the international community to cooperate in eradicating the disease before it infects humans.

In a related matter, former Ukrainian Minister of Health Mykola Polishchuk has warned against scaring the population with exaggerations about the effects of the disease. Saying that its affects are dangerous enough, he blamed unnamed pharmaceutical and chemical companies of speculating on human emotions, the news agency reported.

The Ministry of Emergency Situations reported that by midweek, it had culled nearly 65,000 domesticated fowl from affected Crimean regions and compensated farmers by the sum of 1.3 million hryven (about $300,000). Its inspectors have examined more than 44,000 small farms and vaccinated 30,000 people, including 5,251 children. More than 500 people have been placed under medical supervision. Ukraine has been battling the infection since the beginning of the month.

Despite reports in the Russian media, which quoted Emergency Situations Minister Viktor Baloha as warning that the virus could spread beyond Crimea to continental Ukraine, his staff spokeswoman, Olena Bykova, and press chief, Ihor Krol, told ID Access that they could not substantiate him expressing such fears.

Some Ukrainian officials have asked President Viktor Yushchenko to suspend the state of emergency in the peninsula, arguing that regular quarantine efforts have been successful in containing the spread of the disease. No action has yet been forthcoming from the president's office.

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