Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Russia : Thousands Tested For Bird Flu As Quarantine Net Falls Over Villages Outside Moscow

"Can't Exclude The Possibility Of BioTerrorism"

The presence of the H5N1 virus has been detected in birds in the North Caucusus region of Russia, and in markets around Moscow :
Outbreaks of H5N1 have so far been confirmed in Moscow's Sadovod pet market and in five districts of the Moscow region; Domodedovo, Odintsovo, Podolsk, Naro-Fominsk and Taldom.

More than 5400 Russians living in villages outside of Moscow are now being medically monitored for signs of having caught the avian influenza virus from at least eight small to large outbreaks of the H5N1 virus in village markets.

Between 20 and 43 people are now under quarantine after having direct contact with poultry birds that are believed to have died from the virus.

Russian officials began culling birds on February 9.

From the St Petersburg Times (excerpts) :

An avian flu outbreak in the Moscow region over the weekend has been traced to a single market, a senior official said Sunday.

The four cases of dead poultry involved birds that had been bought at a market located in southwest Moscow, Alexei Alexeyenko, a spokesman for the Agriculture Ministry’s animal and plant inspection agency, told The Associated Press.

Alexeyenko said the market had been closed Saturday and that experts were working to pinpoint the source of the birds, the AP reported.

A number of poultry farms around Moscow were placed under quarantine over the weekend after the authorities confirmed an outbreak of bird flu in the region. But some confusion surrounded the confirmation of the H5N1 strain, with officials contradicting one another.

Television footage Sunday showed veterinary workers in protective suits checking homes in the district and spraying vehicle tires with disinfectant.

Sitnikov said he was optimistic that further outbreaks of the virus in the Moscow region could be prevented.

The Moscow region has offered a series of guidelines, including avoiding contact with wild fowl and only buying bird meat or eggs in official marketplaces.

“I can’t exclude the possibility of bioterrorism. In that case, the Federal Security Service and other law enforcement agencies will have to be involved,” Sitnikov was quoted as saying by Ekho Moskvy radio.

But Oleg Kiselyov, who heads the Federal Flu Research Institute, dismissed the idea that the flu could be linked to terrorism.

He also said in an interview with Ekho Moskvy on Sunday that Russian scientists had already designed a vaccine for both humans and birds.

The outbreak of bird flu in the Moscow region is the second case in Russia this year.

On Jan. 29, the H5N1 virus was found at three locations in the southern Krasnodar region

From the London Times :
Thousands of Russians were undergoing tests last night after an outbreak of bird flu at chicken farms on the outskirts of Moscow.

Health officials confirmed that chickens at two farms within 30 miles (49km) of the capital had died from the H5N1 strain of the virus. Dead birds suspected of being contaminated were also being tested at three other locations near Moscow.

“Medical monitoring is under way for 5,453 residents in the relevant areas, including 20 citizens who were in direct contact with the infected birds,” said Gennady Onishchenko, Russia’s chief epidemiologist. No illnesses had been reported among human beings so far, he said.

This is the first time that bird flu has been detected so close to Moscow, which is home to more than ten million people. Officials established quarantine zones around villages in affected areas and began bird vaccination programmes. Veterinary officials have established that the bird flu virus came from chickens bought at a Moscow bird market. More than 150 birds have died at private farms around the city in the past ten days.

Russia’s Interior Ministry ordered measures to prevent any possible spread of the infection. Police visited every house in the affected districts to seek information about possible sick birds, while road traffic inspectors were checking all poultry vehicles.

Eight Seats Of Bird Flu Identified Near Moscow

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