Avian Influenza Reported in 3 More Countries

Associated Press
Wednesday, February 15, 2006

TEHRAN, Feb. 14 -- Iran on Tuesday said 135 wild swans died of bird flu in marshlands near the Caspian Sea in the country's first case of the spreading virus, and officials in Germany and Austria said the virus had apparently come across their borders as well.

The disease's likely spread to three new countries follows the recent deaths of humans from the H5N1 strain of bird flu in Turkey and Iraq, Iran's neighbors, and the march of the disease into the European countries of Greece and Italy.

Olympic officials in Italy said bird flu posed no threat to the Turin Olympics. But an official in Nigeria warned that bird flu was fast spreading in that country, and a U.N. expert said the strain may have surfaced in neighboring Niger.

Bird flu has killed at least 91 people since 2003, according to the World Health Organization. Almost all the human deaths have been linked to contact with infected poultry, but experts fear that the H5N1 virus could mutate into a form that spreads easily among people, possibly sparking a pandemic.

Iran's official Islamic Republic News Agency quoted the country's Veterinary Organization as saying that "international laboratory results" confirmed that the wild swans died from bird flu. It did not name or give the location of the laboratory.

Health Minister Kamaran Bagheri Lankarani said on state-run television that Iranian officials have killed all wild birds in a three-mile radius around where the virus was detected, about 200 miles northwest of the capital, Tehran.

Two dead swans in northern Germany were found on the island of Rugen, and a regional agriculture ministry spokeswoman, Iris Uellendahl, said a preliminary test showed they died of H5N1.

Agriculture Minister Horst Seehofer ordered domestic poultry kept indoors beginning Friday instead of Feb. 20 as previously ordered. Samples from the birds were being taken to an E.U. laboratory in Britain for a definitive test, Uellendahl said.

Two birds found dead in Austria appear to also have been infected with the H5N1 strain.

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