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Deadly H5N1 bird flu confirmed in Hungarian geese by EU

The deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu infected fowl in Hungary, marking the first infection in Europe since the disease was last reported in August. Japan's Okayama prefecture confirms bird flu case as H5 strain.

Authorities found the H5N1 avian influenza strain in geese in Hungary, European Commission spokesman Philip Tod said, confirming the findings of the eastern European country's veterinary agency. The second outbreak is about 8 kilometers (5 miles) from the first and „this outbreak is in a flock of 9,384 geese,” Tod told journalists in Brussels today. „As a precaution, the flock and all animals within 1 kilometer of the flock were culled.” Countries in Asia and Africa including Vietnam and Egypt reported fresh outbreaks of H5N1 starting in November, after going months without finding infections. The last reported infection in Europe was a wild bird found in Germany in August, according to the Paris-based World Organization for Animal Health. The European Union is the world's biggest consumer of chicken meat after the US and China, at 7.4 million metric tons last year. The 27-nation bloc is the world's third-biggest poultry producer.

EU members have reported 178 outbreaks in domestic poultry since 2005, according to the animal health agency. Romania has had the most poultry outbreaks in the EU at 168. EU members Hungary, Denmark, France and Germany also have reported infections in domestic birds. Greece and Italy are among EU countries that have found the disease in wild birds. Authorities have culled 3,300 geese in eastern Hungary after about 40 animals showed bird flu-like symptoms. A surveillance zone was set up and the affected farm is isolated enough that the spread of the disease is unlikely, Chief Veterinarian Miklós Suth said last week.

Japan confirmed its third case this year of bird flu after officials in the western prefecture of Okayama said the H5 strain of avian influenza was found on a local poultry farm. At least 39 chickens have died on the farm in the city of Takahashi, according to a statement on the prefecture's Web site. The agriculture ministry said on January 27 there are 12,000 chickens at the farm and that it had restricted movement of goods within a radius of 10 kilometers around it to help prevent spread of the virus. The ministry on January 25 confirmed Japan's second avian flu outbreak of the year at a poultry farm with 52,200 chickens in Miyazaki prefecture in the southern island of Kyushu. Birds there were infected with the H5N1 strain. The H5N1 strain of bird flu has infected 269 people in 10 countries since 2003, killing 163 of them, the WHO said this month. Millions could die should H5N1 mutate and spread to humans in a global outbreak. Japan's first H5N1 outbreak was reported in a commercial poultry flock in Yamaguchi prefecture on the southwestern edge of the main island of Honshu in 2004. (Bloomberg)