10 February, 2006
Greek authorities informed the European Commission on Thursday that the National Reference Laboratory detected the bird flu virus H5 in three migrating birds found in Thessaloniki and Pieria, the Commission said in a statement.
According to the Commission, the samples were taken within the context of inspections carried out by Greek authorities of poultry farms and wild birds.
It also noted that the samples from the three swans have been sent to the Community Reference Laboratory (CRL) in Weybridge, London for further tests to see if the deadly H5N1 strain of the virus could be isolated.
The Commission said that it will adopt the necessary security measures on Friday.
It added that the measures to be adopted have been discussed by EU agencies and national authorities, while the Commission has already agreed with Greek authorities on the course of action to be taken.
European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection Markos Kyprianou said that in order to be well prepared and to avoid surprises, authorities and governments must address the issue based on the assumption that the bird flu virus can spread from wild birds.
The important thing he said, is that a framework is in place, based on which the appropriate measures will be adopted as soon as possible so as to contain the virus.
The agriculture ministry on Thursday confirmed that three samples taken from migrating swans in Thessaloniki and Pieria had tested positive for the bird flu virus H5. It said the samples had been sent on to the Community Reference Laboratory (CRL) in Weybridge, London for further tests to see if the deadly H5N1 form of the virus could be isolated. The CRL is expected to announce its results within 2-8 days.
Agriculture Minister Evangelos Bassiakos announced that the appropriate European services had been informed and that measures were being taken to protect Greek poultry, including a ban on allowing any form of poultry to range freely, disinfection of poultry farms and tighter controls on the movements of poultry.
Bassiakos said the positive samples were sent from the Stavros and Nei Epivates
areas of Thessaloniki and from Katerinis Beach in Pieria, among a total of 52 samples received.
The minister noted that this development demonstrated that the bird flu programme was working, since it had allowed the virus to be detected in wild birds before it infected domestic poultry. He said that some 3,500 samples from all areas in the country had been tested over the past few months.
The ministry has also sent out a circular to all prefecture authorities instructing them to step up the bio-security measures that are already in force and to mobilize all staff in their veterinary services in order to prevent the spread of the disease to domestic birds.
It has also alerted the Centre for the Control and Prevention of Diseases, the Health Service Coordinating Organ and regional authority chiefs.
Bassiakos stressed, meanwhile, that the crisis should be dealt with calmly since the country was already implementing all the measures foreseen for protection against bird flu.
Two communities in northern Greece where samples of the bird flu virus H5 were detected in migrating swans are being sealed off, Deputy Prefect of Thessaloniki Ioannis Bikos told the ANA-MPA on Thursday.
Quarantine measures in Stavros and Nei Epivates will go into effect within a 3km radius from where the swans were discovered, as soon as the prefecture receives instructions from the Ministry of Agricultural Development and Foods on Thursday, Bikos explained.
Additionally, the prefecture has also called for the close monitoring of poultry farms within a 10km radius from where the infected swans were found.
The Thessaloniki prefecture sent 20 swan samples for analysis to the Thessaloniki Veterinary Lab.
Source: Athens News Agency