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Bird flu cases in southern Germany show highly pathogenic H5N1 variant

At least some of the cases of bird flu discovered this weekend near the southern city of Nuremberg involve a highly pathogenic variety of the H5N1 strain, Germany's Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection said Sunday. 

All seven of the birds — five swans, one duck and one goose found dead on Friday and Saturday — had the H5N1 strain, and further tests were still ongoing to determine if they were infected with the highly pathogenic variety. The country's top veterinary laboratory, the Friedrich Loeffler Institute, confirmed that three wild birds - two swans and a goose - found in two lakes near Nuremberg had tested positive for the worst strain of the H5N1 virus – Reuters reports.

It is the first bird flu discovered in Germany this year, and the first report of wild birds infected this year within the European Union. The H5N1 strain has, however, been found in poultry farms in three other EU countries this year: Hungary, Britain and the Czech Republic, the European Commission said.

Thirteen EU nations were hit by bird flu last year — Austria, Denmark, Poland, Italy, Greece, Britain, Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Hungary and France. Bird flu is believed to spread along bird migration routes. The H5N1 strain has decimated poultry stocks since 2003 and killed at least 191 people worldwide, most of them directly infected by sick birds in Asia. Experts fear, however, that the virus could mutate into a form easily transmitted between people. (