News update:Feb 7, 2007

H5N1: Will we ever be safe?

Nobel prize winners and campaigners, including Noam Chomsky and Naomi Klein are petitioning the EU for the elimination of large-scale intensive livestock farming, which they argue is "accelerating the development of new pandemic diseases."

Macedonia joins Hong Kong, Ireland, Japan, Russia, South Africa and South Korea in banning the import of poultry from the UK, following the recent outbreak last week.  The European Union's top health official, health and food safety Commissioner, Markos Kyprianou (photo ), said he was optimistic the bloc would be able to control bird flu this year despite the outbreaks of the H5N1 strain in Britain and Hungary , but added: "The virus is still around. We should never feel that we are safe."

Britains' environment secretary David Miliband said that the government intends to "stamp out" the highly virulent H5N1 strain of the bird flu virus. A cull of 159,000 turkeys took place at the eastern England farm where H5N1 was confirmed. Strict controls are in place around the site of what is the nation's first outbreak of a deadly strain of bird flu in farmed poultry.

The origin of the strain also remains a mystery, since the only other case in the EU is in Hungary. Bernard Matthews, the company affected by the outbreak, has a subsidiary in Hungary, but denies any possible link between the two cases. British officials say the risk to humans is "negligible" and that food on sale is "safe."

Poultry sales were reported to be holding up and no further H5N1 outbreaks have been reported. Britain 's poultry producers, however, are braced for the loss of export orders.


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