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Germany Confirms First Case Of H5N1 in Domestic Poultry
posted by admin on 06/04/06

Germany confirmed its first case of the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu in domestic poultry. 

The outbreak occurred at a poultry farm in the eastern state of Saxony. 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said, "it is a serious situation," and that the outbreak "raises a lot of questions," since Saxony wasn't among the states that had recorded any outbreaks in migratory birds. 

Germany's Friedrich Loeffler Institute confirmed the H5N1 infection Wednesday.
Officials said they had ordered a cull of the entire flock of 16,300 geese, turkeys and chickens at the farm in Wermsdorf, east of Leipzig, after some 20 turkeys were found dead earlier this week. It wasn't immediately clear how the infection occurred, but a likely scenario was that a farm worker inadvertently brought the virus in, Saxony state veterinarian Ingolf Herold said.
"It's possible a worker at the operation stepped in [wild] bird feces outside and then brought that into the stall," Mr. Herold said. 

Authorities put an eight-mile radius around the farm under close observation. They banned the transport of any birds within a two-mile radius in an attempt to make sure the virus does not spread as the flock is slaughtered, said Helma Orosz, the state's social affairs minister. 

In addition to wild birds, Germany has also recorded cases of H5N1 in a stone marten, a weasel-like animal, and a cat, both of which were found on the island of Ruegen, north of mainland Germany. Some 200 wild birds were also reported infected with H5N1 in Germany, mostly on or around Ruegen. 

The emergence of H5N1 in domestic poultry is of particular concern, especially given the fact that when neighboring France reported H5N1 in poultry last month, more than 40 countries banned or restricted French poultry imports, ravaging the country's poultry industry. 

This particular farm in Germany had already been under observation after a non-H5N1 type of flu virus was detected there in December. Birds in the stall where the H5N1 was found were tested 14 days ago for the virus and the results were negative. 

Scientists Suggest Keeping Cats Indoors 

Scientists now suggest that people living in areas where bird flu has been found in poultry or wild birds keep their cats indoors, according to a report in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature. 

Scientists believe the potential role of felines in spreading the virus has been overlooked. Cats have been known to become infected with the H5N1 virus and lab experiments show they can give it to other cats, although nobody knows whether they can transmit it to people or poultry, the researchers reported. 

Scientists know so little about H5N1 in cats that it's difficult to assess the risk they pose when infected, wrote virologist Albert Osterhaus and colleagues at the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, along with Peter Roeder of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Still, "we believe that the potential role of cats should be considered in official guidelines for controlling the spread of H5N1 virus infection," they wrote. 

In areas where H5N1 has been found in poultry or wild birds, cats should be kept away from infected birds or their droppings, and cats suspected of such contacts or showing symptoms of infection should be quarantined and tested, they wrote. Where possible, cats could be kept indoors to prevent contact, they wrote. 

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, an agency of the European Union, has also recommended keeping cats indoors if they live within about six miles of a verified H5N1 infection in birds. 

Some bird flu experts said they found it premature to suggest keeping cats indoors. Scientists need to learn more about what role, if any, cats have in spreading H5N1 before making such blanket recommendations, said Arnold S. Monto of the University of Michigan School of Public Health. 

Mr. Osterhaus, discussing his recommendations in a telephone interview, said that "people in the United States should realize the disease is not there, so there is no reason at this moment to be concerned at all." 

Cambodia Reports Sixth Human H5N1 Death 

A 12-year-old boy has died from bird flu in Cambodia, becoming the country's sixth human fatality of the H5N1 virus, health officials said. 

The boy, from the southeastern province of Prey Veng, died Tuesday at a Phnom Penh hospital, said Ly Sovann, chief of the disease surveillance unit of the Health Ministry. The World Health Organization confirmed that the child had died from H5N1 but further details were withheld pending an investigation as to how he was infected. The boy's parents said he fell ill a week ago after coming into contact with what appeared to be sick fowl, the health ministry official said. 

The death came just over two weeks after a three-year-old girl died in Kampong Speu province, which is southeast of the capital and far from the village of the most recent victim. 

Prime Minister Hun Sen has publicly called for stepped-up televised campaigns to inform Cambodians about how to avoid catching the deadly virus, saying he feared that an outbreak would be uncontrollable. 

Copyright © 2006 Associated Press

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