October 7, 2005

Bird flu in Russia dying out, but may return

MOSCOW (Reuters) - An outbreak in Russia of avian flu, a
disease potentially fatal to humans, is dying out but could
make a comeback next spring, a senior health official said on

"The outbreak is petering out, as migrant fowl leave the
country," Ivan Rozhdestvensky, Russia's deputy chief
veterinarian, told a news conference. "However, we will have to
see what happens when...birds return next spring."

An agriculture ministry statement said strict quarantine
was being kept at only seven localities in five regions in
Siberia and the Urals out of 50 where the presence of the virus
had been confirmed. Another 19 localities remain under

Until recently bird flu cases had been limited to small
private households, but the virus recently penetrated a large
industrial chicken farm in the Southern Urals, killing 100,000
birds out of its population of 460,000, Rozhdestvensky said.

"This was the first case involving a large farm, and I hope
it will be the last," he said. Rozhdestvensky said the
remaining birds at the farm would be culled and the farm closed
to prevent the disease from spreading.

He said tests were continuing to find out whether the virus
discovered at the farm is of the H5N1 strain particularly
dangerous to humans.

"So far we can only say that it is one of the H5
varieties," Rozhdestvensky said.

Vladimir Fisinin, president of of the Russian Poultry
Breeders Union, told the briefing that since the start of the
outbreak in mid-July over 12,000 wild and domestic birds have
died from the disease and 144,000 have been culled.

Those figures did not include the case affecting the large
chicken farm.

The H5N1 avian flu virus has infected more than 100 people,
killing at least 60 in four Asian nations since late 2003. No
humans have contracted the infection so far in Russia.