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Brussels, 12 March 2003

Commission adopts control measures to contain possible avian influenza outbreak in Belgium

Following a possible outbreak of avian influenza in Belgium on 11 March, the Commission adopted a Decision today to reinforce the control measures already put in place by the Belgian authorities. Avian influenza is a highly contagious poultry disease that can cause severe economic damage to the poultry industry.

Suspicion of an outbreak of avian influenza in the province of Antwerp, close to the Dutch border, arose on 11 March. The Belgian authorities, in co-operation with the Commission services, immediately put in place measures foreseen in Directive 92/40/EC. These measures include a nation-wide standstill for the transport of live poultry and hatching eggs and a prohibition on dispatching any live poultry or hatching eggs from the whole territory of Belgium.

The Commission Decision adopted today reinforces these measures by defining them at the EU level. The Commission Decision specifies that no live poultry and hatching eggs may be dispatched from Belgium to other Member States or third countries. They may also not be transported within Belgium. The Decision is addressed to the Member States, and all Member States must amend the measures they apply to trade so that they are in compliance with this decision. In view of the specificity of poultry production, the Belgian veterinary authority may authorise movements of day-old chicks and poultry for immediate slaughter within Belgium as of 14 March.

The measures contained in the Commission Decision are applicable until 20 March 2003 unless the suspicion has been officially ruled out by laboratory testing. However, the situation will be reviewed at the meeting of the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health scheduled for 13 March 2003. This meeting includes representatives of the Member States and the Commission. The urgent measures adopted by the Commission could then be updated to take into account the development of the situation.

The Commission will continue to work closely with the Belgian authorities to ensure proper co-ordination within the EU.

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