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Country News - 2005

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Bird flu' risk "low," say scientists

Tuesday 30 August 2005

GOVERNMENT scientists and Britain's leading ornithologists issued a statement over the Bank Holiday weekend to calm fears about the possible spread of avian flu to the UK by migrating birds.

The flu has spread from birds - mainly poultry - to humans in China and South East Asia and some 120 victims are reported to have died. Last week, speculation grew that wild birds migrating westward had already brought the disease to parts of Russian and would eventually bring it here.

Yesterday, it was revealed that although the Government has ordered some 15 million doses of vaccine, very little had yet been manufactured. The small available stocks will be provided to Government ministers, the Mayor of London and his staff, and key personnel like doctors, ambulance men, police and soldiers.

With the papers full of stories of a possible pandemic that could kill millions of people worldwide, a meeting was called by Government veterinary officers and experts from organisations like the British Trust for Ornithology and the RSPB.

After the meeting, a statement was issued saying that although a "risk existed" of migrating birds spreading the disease, the likelihood "based on current information is low."

A working group was set up to monitor any future danger signs, both nationally and internationally. Last week, the Dutch government ordered its poultry farmers to keep their birds indoors - a move that if attempted in the UK would undoubtedly attract major protests from vocal anti-factory farming organisations.


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