January 3, 2006

Dead Malawi swallows test negative for bird flu

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Tests on swallows which died
mysteriously in Malawi have come up negative for bird flu, a
veterinary official in South Africa said on Tuesday.

"We have tested samples that were sent to us from Malawi
and they all tested negative. They were from migratory swallows
which were dying in large numbers," said Celia Abolnik, a
senior researcher at South Africa's Onderstepoort Veterinary

"We don't know what killed them but the important thing is
that it was not bird flu," she told Reuters.

She said that South Africa was wrapping up tests on
droppings taken from birds which spend the northern
hemisphere's winter in the country and would soon turn its
attention to testing samples from domestic wild ducks in March
or April.

Tests so far have shown no signs of avian flu.

"We still have a couple of hundred samples to test from
migratory birds," she said.

The deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu has not been detected in
Africa yet. It has killed more than 70 people in Asia since
2003 and forced the slaughter of millions of birds.