February 21, 2007
Russia finds bird flu in new region, suspects more
A security guard wearing a face mask keeps watch at a poultry market closed for business in Moscow February 19, 2007.
A security guard wearing a face mask keeps watch at a poultry market closed for business in Moscow February 19, 2007. REUTERS/Alexander Natruskin
By Aleksandras Budrys
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia confirmed another outbreak of the highly pathogenic H5N1 strain of bird flu, potentially dangerous to humans, on a farm in a southern region on Wednesday and suspects two more outbreaks on farms near Moscow.
Alexei Alexeyenko, spokesman for animal and plant health watchdog Rosselkhoznadzor, said the H5N1 strain was identified in the republic of Adygeya, a region in the North Caucasus.
Bird deaths also have been registered at farms in Dmitrov district, part of Moscow region, and Borovsk district in the Kaluga region, which borders the Moscow region to the south.
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Alexeyenko said he expected confirmation of the presence of the virus in these regions within the next two days.
"It looks like it's H5N1 again, as the pattern appears to be the same as in the previous cases," he said.
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.
Alexeyenko said he expected confirmation before the end of Wednesday that H5N1 was responsible for outbreaks identified earlier in two more districts of the Moscow region -- Volokolamsk and Ramenskoye.
Russia's Emergencies Ministry said in a statement that 1,500 domestic fowl had been culled since February 9 to prevent the spread. Another 333 birds have died of the virus.
Health officials have traced all the Moscow region outbreaks to birds bought in the last two weeks at the Sadovod market, commonly known as "Ptichka," or "Birdie."
The Moscow region outbreaks are Russia's second instance of bird flu this year and the first so close to the capital. The third area affected, Adygeya, is surrounded entirely by the southern region of Krasnodar, where H5N1 killed poultry in three settlements last month in the country's first 2007 outbreak.
No human cases of bird flu have been recorded in Russia. People who have been in contact with the dead birds have been checked, but none have shown any sign of falling ill.
The virus has killed 167 people worldwide since 2003, mostly in Asia and in cases where the victims had been in direct contact with infected birds. A total 274 cases have been recorded in humans.
Health experts fear the virus could mutate into a form that passes easily between humans, sparking a pandemic that could kill millions. Five people have died from eight cases in Azerbaijan, which borders Russia to the south.