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Brussels, 5 April 2006

Avian influenza H5 suspected in a dead wild swan in United Kingdom: UK authorities applying precautionary measures

The authorities of the United Kingdom have informed the European Commission that preliminary tests have found the highly pathogenic avian influenza virus H5 in a sample from a dead wild swan detected in Cellardyke, Fife, Scotland. Samples will be sent to the Community Reference Laboratory for avian influenza in Weybridge for further tests to determine if this is the H5N1 strain of the virus found in Asia.

The UK authorities have informed the European Commission that they will apply immediately the precautionary measures set out in Commission Decision 2006/115 on certain protection measures in relation to highly pathogenic avian influenza in wild birds in the Community. The Decision sets out the measures to be applied in any Member State of the European Union which detects a case of avian influenza H5 in wild birds which is suspected or confirmed to be the highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 virus.

The measures consist of the establishment of a high risk area (a 3 km protection zone) around the suspected case and a surrounding surveillance zone of 10 km (which includes the protection zone). 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.

If confirmed to be H5N1, the United Kingdom would be the thirteenth Member State of the EU to report a case of the avian influenza H5N1 virus in wild birds in the EU.

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