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IP/05/1290

Brussels, 15 October 2005

Avian influenza : high pathogenic type H5N1 confirmed in Romania is same strain as in Asia and Turkey

"The European Commission has been informed that test results from the EU laboratory at Weybridge this afternoon confirmed that the avian influenza virus in Romania is the same high pathogenic H5N1 strain found in Asia and in Turkey”, said EU Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner Markos Kyprianou. This morning, tests confirmed that the virus in Romania was an H5N1 strain but further tests were required to confirm the link with the strain found in Asia and Turkey. This link has now been confirmed. “As a precautionary measure following the confirmation of the H5N1 virus in Turkey on 13 October, the Commission had already been working on the assumption that the virus found in Romania was also the H5N1 strain. Therefore appropriate measures are already in force”, said Commissioner Kyprianou. A measure blocking the import into the EU of live birds, poultry meat and other poultry products from Romania came into force last Thursday and a Commission decision on reinforced preventive measures was endorsed by Member State experts yesterday. The Romanian authorities have taken the necessary culling measures and imposed restrictions on the movement of birds within Romania.

Reinforced preventive measures proposed by the Commission to reduce the risk of introduction of avian influenza into EU poultry farms were endorsed by the Member States on 14 October and will now be formally adopted by the Commission in the coming days. These measures include a requirement for Member States to prevent contact between wild birds and poultry in high risk areas such as wetlands or other areas known to be frequented by migratory birds.

Since the import ban on Romania and the reinforced biosecurity measures in the EU are already in place, there is no need today to propose specific further measures in response to the confirmation of the H5N1 virus in Romania. However, the Commission is continuing to follow the situation closely. The Commission has convened the Standing Committee again on Thursday to evaluate the evolution of the situation, and will convene a meeting earlier if required.

Imports of live birds and feathers from Turkey have already been banned by the Commission since Monday, following the finding of the avian influenza virus there.

The Commission recalls that this avian influenza virus is currently an animal health problem affecting birds. The reported cases of the virus infecting humans (in Asia) seem to result from close contact with birds under circumstances which are not commonly found in Europe.

Commissioner Kyprianou will attend the General Affairs Council meeting in Luxembourg on Tuesday 18 October for the point on avian influenza, and will give a press conference on Wednesday 19 October in Brussels on influenza pandemic preparedness (time to be confirmed). Commissioner Kyprianou will also attend the Informal Meeting of Health Ministers in Hertfortdshire on 20-21 October which will discuss influenza pandemic preparedness.


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