Bird flu virus 'low risk' to humans

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Scientists at the Stockholm-based European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control added that, for those not involved in farming, the threat becomes "almost non-existent".

The advice came as a new outbreak of the potentially deadly strain of the virus was detected at Tula, 155 miles south of Moscow, and a second outbreak was confirmed in Romania.

Officials in Brussels were still awaiting the result of tests on birds in Greece and Macedonia, while an outbreak of bird flu in the northern Chinese province of Inner Mongolia left at least 2,600 birds dead.

The European experts stressed that the H5N1 virus is extremely difficult for people to contract, although they are worried that it will mutate into a form transmissible among humans.

Their advice stated that it is "highly unlikely" that H5N1 can be passed on to humans by raw meat or eggs: "If you cook your food properly this will eliminate the risk entirely."

The centre, which started in May, also laid out new guidance to protect those who live or work with poultry. It said visitors to regions where H5N1 has been detected should avoid poultry farms and bird markets.

News of the outbreak in China, the fourth this year, emerged in a report from the Xinhua news agency. But with officials from the World Health Organisation claiming that the HN51 virus is endemic in poultry in China, the lack of information in the report has raised fears that authorities may be concealing the true extent of the spread of bird flu in China.