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EU health chief "surprised" at Spain bird flu case
posted by admin on 13/07/06

BRUSSELS, July 11 (Reuters)

Spain's first case of H5N1 bird flu came as a surprise to European Commission experts who want to learn more about its origin, EU Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner Markos Kyprianou said on Tuesday.

Last week, Spain's agriculture ministry announced the presence of highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza in a dead great crested grebe in a northern province of the country.

"It was a bit of a surprise -- we had been looking more at the spring migration," Kyprianou said. "From an epidemiological point of view, we would like to know more about this case."

Commission experts had viewed Spain as a risk country for bird flu due to its proximity to Africa and had warned of large-scale bird movements in springtime when new species might cross over into mainland Europe. This largely failed to happen. "Once we have the virus in the EU, we shouldn't be surprised when we see it in wild birds," Kyprianou said.

"But to a great extent we have managed to contain the impact on commercial poultry. We have all the measures in place and there's no need for concern," he said.

Conservation group Birdlife International has said the dead bird could have spent the winter in a part of the Mediterranean affected by bird flu, rather than having migrated from Africa.

Bird flu has been found in more than 48 countries and territories since it re-emerged in Asia in 2003. It has killed 131 people.

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