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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
A poster by Durham Constabulary
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
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

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine