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Brussels, 13 February 2006

Avian influenza confirmed in wild swans in Italy: Italian authorities applying precautionary measures

The Italian authorities today informed the European Commission of confirmed outbreaks of the highly pathogenic avian influenza virus H5N1 in dead wild swans tested on the eastern coast of Sicily, in Taranto (Puglia) and in Calabria. The confirmatory tests were carried out by the Italian national laboratory for avian influenza in Padua (an accredited EU laboratory and also the reference laboratory of the Food and Agriculture Organisation and the OIE), following preliminary positive tests undertaken by laboratories in Palermo, Portici and Foggia.

The Italian authorities have given a commitment to the European Commission to apply immediately the same precautionary measures as those set out in the Commission Decision adopted for Greece on Friday. The European Commission will adopt on Monday the same Decision for Italy, setting out interim protection measures in relation to cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza in wild birds in Italy.

The measures being applied by Italy are, as for Greece, the establishment of a high risk area (a 3 km protection zone) around each of the outbreaks and a surrounding surveillance zone of 10 km. In the protection zone, poultry must be kept indoors, movement of poultry is banned except directly to the slaughterhouse and the dispatch of meat outside the zone is forbidden except where products have undergone the controls provided for in EU food controls legislation (i.e meat sourced from healthy animals in registered farms, subject to ante and post mortem checks by vets in the slaughterhouse). In both the protection zone and the surveillance zone, on-farm biosecurity measures must be strengthened, hunting of wild birds is banned and disease awareness of poultry owners and their families must be carried out.

The avian influenza situation in Italy and other affected countries will be reviewed by the Standing Committee on the Food and Chain and Animal Health which meets on 16-17 February.

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