Wednesday, February 14, 2007

English, Hungarian bird flu virus almost identical—scientists

LONDON, Feb 14 (KUNA)—The strain of bird flu responsible for the outbreak of the disease in Suffolk, southern England, is “essentially identical” to the virus found in Hungary, British Government scientists said Wednesday.

Experts at the UK Veterinary Laboratory Agency found the “H5N1” virus which killed turkeys at the Bernard Matthews plant in Holton was 99.96 percent similar to the strain which infected geese in southern Hungary Deputy chief veterinary surgeon Fred Landeg said no evidence had yet been found of “illegal or unsafe movements of poultry products from Hungary to the UK.”

Although it now seems most likely that the virus was passed from poultry to poultry, the investigation into how it got to the UK continues and no lines of inquiry have been ruled out.

Hungary’s chief veterinary surgeon Miklos Suth said investigations by the country’s authorities had established that there was no link between the geese which contracted H5N1 in Hungary and the frozen turkeys sent to the Bernard Matthews plant in Holton.

The turkeys were raised on a farm in the west of the country, while the affected goose farm was in southern Hungary, said Suth.

And he said that the slaughterhouse where the geese were killed deals only with geese, while the second abattoir where the turkeys died handles only turkeys.

The strain of H5N1 found in Hungary was “very close” not only to the Holton virus but to those responsible for outbreaks in Ukraine, France, Romania, Bulgaria and Slovenia, Suth told BBC domestic radio.

Meanwhile, the opposition Liberal Democrat environment spokesman Chris Huhne said the closeness of the match “turned up the heat” on the Bernard Matthews farm.

He said, “Although all options should still be considered, answers must be forthcoming on why Bernard Matthews maintained movements between the two countries after the outbreak had occurred.

“In order to maintain high consumer confidence in the longer term, we need an urgent reform of country of origin labeling.” Almost 160,000 turkeys have been culled at the Bernard Matthews farm in Suffolk since the outbreak of bird flu was confirmed.

Avian influenza story source: KUNA (Kuwait News Agency)

Posted by john T. on 02/14 at 08:48 AM
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