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Bird Flu No Longer Only Asian Problem
Sonya Bryskine, Epoch Times Australia Staff

Bird flu is no longer an Asian virus, following its rapid proliferation across the heart of Western Europe. Since the beginning of February the virus has hit eight new countries and fears are raised that the spread will continue.

At a two-day summit in Brussels on February 15 health officials agreed on a plan to combat the looming bird flu pandemic.

The BBC reported that the steps approved at the meeting included the automatic creation of 3km protection zones and 10km surveillance zones around outbreaks in wild birds. Special "buffer zones", where poultry transport would be restricted, would be created in case the virus jumped from wild birds to domestic flocks.

"The establishment of these risk areas will help to define a disaster-free part of the country, which is obviously good for trade purposes," Philip Tod, a European Commission food safety spokesman, said in a BBC report.

These emergency measures came amid fresh confirmations from France and Egypt, which have detected the N5N1 strain in wild swans. By Valentine's Day the virus had also been confirmed in wild swans across Slovenia, Austria, Bulgaria, Germany, Denmark, Greece and Italy.

The migration of birds from the Black Sea has been commonly blamed for the rapid spread of the virus. Some experts believe that the birds, trying to escape freezing temperatures, have carried the H5N1 strain into Germany and Denmark.

Little is known about how and where specific species migrate with the seasons, beyond broad patterns. "We will probably learn a lot about bird migration by discovering where the H5N1 virus crops up," said John Oxford, a virologist at Queen Mary Hospital in London, reported the New York Times.

Fears that the virus may jump from poultry to humans have seen chicken sales plunge 95 per cent in Greece and over 50 per cent in Italy, reported the Financial Express. If the disease continues to flare, the European Union's $24 billion poultry and egg industry may suffer a serious blow.

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