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
general electionThis quiz matches undecided voters with the best party for them
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen starred in the big screen adaptation of Austen's novel in 2005
tvStar says studios are forcing actors to get buff for period roles
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
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

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before