Bird flu enters EU as Greece finds disease on island farm

Authorities in Greece identified the virus at a turkey farm on the island of Oinouses, near the Turkish coast. Tests are underway to determine whether it is the H5NI variety that has caused the deaths of 60 people in the Far East. If the potentially lethal strain is identified, it would be the first time the disease had entered EU territory.

H5N1 had already been discovered in Turkey and in Romania, sparking alarm across the continent, and prompting calls for EU nations to stockpile antiviral drugs. Yesterday, urgent tests were underway on dead birds found in Croatia, although the Bulgarian authorities said they had detected no cases of bird flu despite earlier alarms.

Last night, the Greek agriculture minister agreed to restrict the movement of live animals and poultry products from the affected area, the Chios region, as a precautionary measure. A formal ban is expected today if the test results prove positive.

As the EU braced itself for a major animal-health crisis, the British presidency of the EU put the issue on the agenda of talks in Luxembourg today. Margaret Beckett, the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, will attend the meeting, which will be chaired by the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw.

Ministers from Greece and Romania are expected to update their colleagues on the latest situation. A spokeswoman for the British presidency said: "This is an opportunity for ministers to consider recent developments and to be updated on the different strands of work."

Yesterday's discovery in Greece has heightened the state of alarm. Samples taken from the birds were undergoing virus-isolation tests in the national reference laboratory in Thessaloniki, and the European Commission also asked for separate scientific analysis to be conducted at the Community Reference Laboratory in Weybridge.

Public health officials appealed for calm, pointing out that the H5N1 virus is difficult to contract and that its victims have usually lived in close contact with poultry. The fear is that it will mutate into a strain easily transmissible among humans, causing a pandemic.

In Athens yesterday, the Greek agriculture minister, Evangelos Bassiakos, said that the infected turkey was one of around 20 birds in a small farm, and the only one infected out of the nine tested. On 13 October, the farm owner reported that he had noticed "strange symptoms and losses among the turkeys". A veterinary team from the nearby island of Chios travelled to Oinouses, and took samples from the suspect birds.

The ministry yesterday placed the farm under quarantine, banning the movement of all people, vehicles, animals, meat, eggs and carcasses from it without ministry permission. It also ordered an immediate disinfection of the farm.

Earlier tests on eight migratory birds found dead in the area of Evros, Greece's closest land border to Turkey, showed that the birds were not carrying the lethal strain.

The EU has banned all poultry imports from Turkey and Romania in an effort to limit the disease's spread, while the countries' authorities have culled thousands of domestic birds in the vicinity of outbreaks.

However the European Commission President, Jose Manuel Barroso, has said that the EU would not hesitate to propose "drastic measures" to fight the spread of bird flu if current safeguards prove insufficient. Mild strains of bird flu have, in the past, provoked massive problems for farmers. In 2003, an outbreak in the Netherlands led to the slaughter of around 30 million birds.

Arts and Entertainment
Armstrong, left, and Bain's writing credits include Peep Show, Fresh Meat, and The Old Guys
TVThe pair have presented their view of 21st-century foibles in shows such as Peep Show and Fresh Meat
Arts and Entertainment
Keys to success: Andrew and Julian Lloyd Webber
arts + entsMrs Bach had too many kids to write the great man's music, says Julian Lloyd Webber
footballMan City manager would have loved to have signed Argentine
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Hand out press photograph/film still from the movie Mad Max Fury Road (Downloaded from the Warner Bro's media site/Jasin Boland/© 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)
films'You have to try everything and it’s all a process of elimination, but ultimately you find your path'
Arts and Entertainment
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films

New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site on Friday


Top Gear presenter is no stranger to foot-in-mouth controversy

Russia Today’s new UK channel began broadcasting yesterday. Discussions so far have included why Britons see Russia as ‘the bad guy’

New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch at the premiere of The Imitation Game at the BFI London Film Festival
filmsKeira Knightley tried to miss The Imitation Game premiere to watch Bake Off
Enner Valencia
footballStriker has enjoyed a rapid rise to fame via winning the title with ‘The Blue Ballet’ in Ecuador
Arts and Entertainment
A top literary agent has compared online giant Amazon to Isis
arts + entsAndrew Wylie has pulled no punches in criticism of Amazon
Arts and Entertainment
Charlie Sheen said he would

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Mobile Developer (.NET / C# / Jason / Jquery / SOA)

£40000 - £65000 per annum + bonus + benefits + OT: Ampersand Consulting LLP: M...

Humanities Teacher - Greater Manchester

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: The JobAt ...

Design Technology Teacher

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Calling al...

Foundation Teacher

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: EYFS Teachers - East Essex...

Day In a Page

Bryan Adams' heartstopping images of wounded British soldiers to go on show at Somerset House

Bryan Adams' images of wounded soldiers

Taken over the course of four years, Adams' portraits are an astonishing document of the aftermath of war
The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities