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IP/05/1244

Brussels, 11 October 2005

Avian Flu in Turkey: EU bans imports of live birds and certain poultry products

The Commission has adopted an EU ban on all imports of Turkish live birds and untreated feathers, following the confirmed presence of avian influenza (AI) virus in Turkey over the weekend. Imports of live poultry, eggs and fresh poultry meat from Turkey are already not allowed in the EU, and therefore no ban is necessary for these products. Member States shall implement the import ban immediately, and the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health will review the decision on 12 October.

Markos Kyprianou, Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection said, "The detection of avian influenza in Turkey is very worrying, given its proximity to EU borders. We do not know yet whether this is the same virulent virus that has caused such widespread destruction in Asia, and we can only hope that it isn’t. However, any hesitation in reacting to this development might pose a serious risk to animal and perhaps even to human health, which is why we are imposing an immediate import ban. The Commission has responded swiftly to the threat of avian influenza since it first emerged in Asia, and we will continue to take every possible measure to seek to prevent this virus from entering the EU. We have offered assistance to Turkey and the measures we have taken against imports will be reviewed in the coming days, when we have the final test results."

Background

The high pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza virus has been endemic in South East Asia since 2003, resulting in the death or destruction of over 140 million birds. The EU has followed the situation closely, working with international actors such as the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) to try to combat the virus in this region, offering financial and technical support to affected countries, and increasing vigilance against the disease within its own borders. In April 2005, the Commission put forward a proposal for a Directive to update EU avian influenza measures (see IP/05/501), based on the developing situation and taking into account new scientific knowledge on the disease – including its potential impact on human health.

Reports of the disease spreading westwards into Russia and Kazakhstan in August 2005 prompted the Commission and Member States to step up efforts to keep avian influenza from entering Europe, and to review the risk-reducing measures in place. Among the measures agreed upon were increased surveillance (particularly of wild birds), mandatory reporting to national veterinary authorities of abnormal wild bird deaths, and the release of almost 900 000 euro from the EU budget to co-finance extended monitoring of birds for the avian influenza viruses.

Import bans are also already in place for exports from Kazakhstan, Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, China, Vietnam, North Korea, Pakistan, Malaysia, and Russia (Siberia), due to the incidence of avian influenza in these countries.

As regards Turkey, samples of the virus are being shipped to the Community reference laboratory on Tuesday morning for further tests.

Romania

Romania reported on 7 October a suspected case of avian influenza in the Danube Delta region following a serological positive reaction in ducks. The authorities have reacted promptly and rigorously and kept the Commission continuously informed. A Commission team of experts is currently in Bucharest and is cooperating with the Romanian authorities and experts. So far no virus has been isolated whilst further tests are ongoing.

The European Commission will review the situation with the Member States at the Standing Committee of the Food Chain and Animal Health meeting of 12 October, and will determine whether further action is necessary in light of the final results of the tests.
For more information on Avian Influenza, see:

http://ec.europa.eu/food/animal/diseases/controlmeasures/avian/index_en.htm


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