The two vaccines, one for use in chickens and the second for both chickens and Pekin ducks, reduce mortality and virus excretion, said the European Commission, the EU's executive arm. The commission has already authorized Italy, France, Germany and the Netherlands to vaccinate their poultry against bird flu. While there are no current outbreaks of avian influenza in birds in the bloc, “the risk of the disease will increase in the coming weeks as the autumn migration period begins,” the commission said in a statement from Brussels. This year, 38 countries including France, the UK, Spain and Germany reported initial outbreaks in fowl.
Governments and international health authorities are monitoring for the H5N1 avian influenza virus, which has the potential to mutate into a pandemic form that may kill millions of people. Since late 2003, the H5N1 strain is known to have infected at least 244 people, mainly in Asia, killing 143 of them, the Geneva-based WHO said on Sept. 8. Reports of human cases have tended to be highest during cooler weather periods in the Northern Hemisphere, the World Health Organization said in its June 30 issue of the Weekly Epidemiological Record. An increase in cases could occur starting in late 2006 or early 2007 if the pattern continues, the WHO said. A severe winter in Russia and the Caucasus area at the end of 2005 pushed migratory birds south and westward, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations said. That may happen again this year, UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has said. (Bloomberg)