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Brussels, 14 October 2005

Avian influenza: Commission proposal for reinforced measures agreed with the Member States

The Member States today endorsed unanimously the reinforced measures proposed by the European Commission to reduce the risk of introducing avian influenza into EU poultry farms. The measures focus on strengthening biosecurity measures on farms and introducing early detection systems in high risk areas such as wetlands or farms along migratory flyways. The decision will now be adopted by the European Commission in the coming days. The Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health also agreed a statement which is annexed below.

The biosecurity measures require the Member States to take the appropriate measures, according to national circumstances, to reduce the risk of avian influenza being spread from wild birds to domestic birds. In particularly high risk areas, this could include keeping poultry indoors. Common EU-wide risk factors were agreed as criteria for applying these measures, for example the location of farms along migratory flyways, the distance of holdings from wet areas where migratory water fowl may gather and the keeping of poultry or other domesticated birds in open-air farms. Risk factors for the spread of avian influenza within or between holdings include areas with a high density of poultry holdings or where there is much movement between holdings. Health checks on poultry holdings must integrate the requirements set out in the Decision.

The early detection systems aim to ensure that any sign of avian influenza in poultry or other captive birds are rapidly reported by the owners or keepers to the national competent veterinary authority. Specific criteria are set out (for example a drop in egg production or increased mortality rates) to alert farmers to the signs indicating that they need to inform the authorities.

Each Member State is responsible for identifying the high risk areas in their territory and ensuring that the appropriate measures to separate wild birds from domesticated birds are implemented as soon as possible. The Member States are required to inform the European Commission of the measures taken before 5 November.

The Commission continues to follow the situation in Turkey, Romania and Bulgaria closely. In addition to the three experts sent to Romania, two experts (one epidemiologist and one laboratory expert) are being sent to Turkey and Bulgaria respectively to evaluate the situation in these countries. Their mission will being on Monday 17 October and will last until Thursday 20 October. In Turkey, the experts will evaluate the situation on the ground in the affected areas and assist their counterparts in the Turkish laboratories. In Bulgaria, the experts will assist their counterparts in the laboratories and offer other assistance and advice as needed on the ground.

The Commission has asked Member States to forward it the names of experts who can be made available should further technical assistance be needed by countries affected by avian influenza outbreaks.

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