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Migrating birds could spread 'bird flu' to Europe

Russia issues warning

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Russia's Emergencies Ministry is warning that the H5N1 strain of the bird-flu virus, the strain dangerous to humans and responsible for the deaths of more than 50 people in Asia, could spread into mainland Europe from farms in Siberia.

The Ministry issued a statement saying that the autumnal migration of birds from Siberia to the Caspian and Black Sea regions could increase the risk of new outbreaks, Reuters reports. "Human infection, especially among workers at poultry farms, cannot be ruled out," the statement warned.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Agriculture said no cases of the H5N1 strain have been identified in the Siberian region of Omsk, but cases have been confirmed in Novosibirsk, Altai and Tyumen. It added that all poultry farms in Russia have taken steps to protect themselves from infection.

In the Novosibirsk region, where the virus has claimed nearly 3,000 head of domestic poultry, farmers have already begun slaughtering birds - a program that could last for at least a week, or even for 10 days.

A local government spokesman told Reuters: "Slaughtered poultry from 68 households was put in plastic bags together with disinfectant and incinerated in specially prepared pits located at a distance from settlements."

The H5N1 strain of the bird-flu virus can be passed from bird to human, but in Russia no cases of human infection have been officially registered. The greatest fear is that the virus will mutate and a strain will emerge that can be passed from human, to human, triggering a global epidemic. ®

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