ROMANIA Area quarantined; bird flu is confirmed



Officials urged limited contact between wild birds and domestic fowl.
BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) -- Romanian authorities called for calm Saturday as they quarantined an eastern region where tests confirmed Europe's first appearance of a deadly strain of bird flu that has devastated flocks and killed dozens of people in Asia.
Poland's government, meanwhile, banned the sale of live birds at open-air markets and ordered farmers to keep poultry in closed quarters beginning Monday. It also banned pigeon races.
"We are doing this to protect the public from danger," Polish Agriculture Minister Jerzy Pilarczyk said.
On Friday, after the deadly H5N1 virus was confirmed in Turkey, on Europe's doorstep, European Union experts agreed that steps should be taken to limit contact between domestic fowl and wild birds. Experts say migrating birds have spread the disease since it appeared in Southeast Asia two years ago.
Authorities' concerns
Authorities around the world fear the virus could mutate into a form that can be passed among people, leading to a flu pandemic that some say could potentially kill millions. So far, most of the 60 humans deaths involving H5N1 have been linked to victims' contact with birds.
In Vietnam, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt called for all nations to work together to quickly come up with preparedness plans.
Leavitt warned that the "chances are not good" for being able to detect when a dangerous mutation first occurs and for moving fast to contain it and prevent a pandemic.
British laboratory tests confirmed that H5N1 was the virus that killed migratory birds found dead in Romania's Danube River delta.
Romanian Agriculture Minister Gheorghe Flutur placed the Dobrogea region under quarantine, requiring all vehicles entering and leaving the area to be disinfected. Checkpoints were set up on roads into the area, and the region was banned from shipping out eggs and poultry meat.
Flutur said birds in four neighboring counties were being monitored.
The finding of H5N1 in Romania underscored fears that Europe is unprepared for a pandemic should the virus mutate into a form that can be passed from person to person.
U.N. flu coordinator David Nabarro told The Associated Press in Thailand that the spread of bird flu to Romania and Turkey "doesn't necessarily mean that we've got a greatly raised risk of human pandemic influenza." It does, however, create more opportunities for the virus to mutate into a form that is dangerous to people, he said.

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