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Alert after positive H5N1 test

12th April 2006

10042006_flying_swans.jpgNo more wild birds have tested positive for the deadly H5N1 strain since a case was found in a swan in Cellardyke, Fife last week. Experts are still testing birds found near Cellardyke, and a UK helpline has had thousands of reports of dead birds.

Tests showed that the infected swan found in Fife had a very similar strain to one which infected more than 100 birds in Germany.

Scotland's first minister Jack McConnell has defended the response to the report of the dead swan, saying it had been fast, effective and well coordinated.

A six-mile (10km) surveillance zone and 1.8 mile (3km) protection zone in place around Cellardyke will remain for at least 30 days from the day the swan was found. A wild bird risk area of 965 square miles (2,500km) has also been established which includes 175 registered poultry premises, containing 3.1 million birds, 260,000 of which are free-range.

The government's chief scientific adviser, Sir David King, has said that the chances of bird flu virus mutating into a form that spreads between humans are "very low". He said any suggestion that a global flu pandemic in humans was inevitable was totally misleading.

John Oxford, a professor of virology at Queen Mary's School of Medicine, in London told BBC Radio Five Live that "We're not expecting a human case from this swan - nor are we really expecting human cases from chickens."

The H5N1 virus cannot pass easily from one person to another, it therefore currently does not pose a large-scale threat to humans. Experts fear the virus could gain this ability if it mutates. They say it could trigger a flu pandemic in its new form, potentially putting millions of human lives at risk.

Government plans included calling off-duty fire fighters and retired lorry drivers into service to ensure food supplies were delivered reports The Sunday Telegraph. The documents reportedly outlined concerns about a lack of preparation among food firms, and a potential shortage of HGV drivers willing to go into infected areas.

Andrew Lansley, the Shadow health secretary, said the government's pandemic plans left questions unanswered, such as whether the public should be advised to avoid public transport and whether schools should be closed in the first wave of an outbreak. He said there should be an open public debate on the issues prior to the onset of any pandemic.

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Article Information

Title: Alert after positive H5N1 test
Author: Sue Knights
Article Id: 213
Date Added: 12th Apr 2006

Sources

BBC News

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