Zdenci, Croatia Authorities in Croatia began killing thousands of domestic birds Saturday and ordered disinfection for a large area near a national park where six swans were found dead from bird flu.
Elsewhere, Russia reported a new outbreak of a lethal strain of bird flu, and Italy and Congo became the latest countries to ban imports of poultry from nations affected by the virus.
Croatian experts detected the H5 virus in the swans late Friday after they were found dead at a fish farm near Zdenci national park. Samples were sent to a British lab to test for the H5N1 strain that has devastated poultry stocks and killed 61 people in Asia the past two years.
The virus is spread by migrating wild birds and has recently been found in birds in Russia, Turkey and Romania, spurring efforts around the globe to contain its spread.
While H5N1 is easily transmitted between birds, it is hard for humans to contract. But experts fear it could mutate into a form of flu that is easily transmitted between humans and cause a pandemic that could kill millions.
As villagers and farmers prepared to cull their flocks, Croatian Minister of Agriculture Petar Cobankovic led a team of health experts Saturday on an inspection of the area around the national park, about 150 kilometres east of the capital, Zagreb.
“There is no room for panic,” Mr. Cobankovic told reporters as a wide zone around where the wild swans died was put under quarantine and cordoned off to be disinfected.
Mr. Cobankovic said authorities had complied with European Union measures on banning poultry distribution and ordering free-range birds to be kept indoors. He said most of the domestic poultry in the area would be slaughtered to prevent the possible spread of the disease.
Meanwhile, five more swans were found dead Saturday morning at another fish pond near the park, police chief Stipo Rimac said. Tests were being done on samples from those birds in Zagreb.
Croatia is along a major migratory route for birds, and about 1,500 swans arrived in the east of the country a few days ago.
Russia said its new outbreak of H5N1 occurred in a region of the Ural Mountains hit by the disease a few months ago. More than 30 chicken died in the village of Sunaly, east of Moscow, and preliminary tests confirmed that strain, the Emergency Situations Ministry said.
Authorities were monitoring seven people who had been in contact with the birds, while the village was quarantined, officials said.
In Britain, experts were testing for H5N1 in the bird flu that killed a parrot at a British quarantine facility. The parrot had been imported from Suriname, but that country's chief veterinary official said Saturday it was healthy before being sent to Britain.
The European Union, which has ordered restrictions on bird markets and shows and urged member nations to vaccinate zoo birds, said it was preparing to ban poultry imports from Croatia. Britain is also urging the EU to ban imports of wild birds into the 25-nation bloc.
Italy's health minister signed an ordinance Saturday banning imports of live poultry, meat and eggs from Croatia, Romania and other Balkan countries, the Apcom news agency reported.
Congo's health minister, Emil Bongeli, said his government banned the import of live birds, pigs and other livestock from countries affected by H5N1.
Concerns about human-to-human transmission were allayed slightly in Thailand, where health officials announced Saturday that a father and son infected with bird flu did not transmit the virus to each other as had been feared.
Dr. Thawat Suntrajarn, director-general of the Department of Communicable Disease Control, said the 48-year-old father and his 7-year-old son became ill after handling a neighbor's sick chickens. The father died; the son is recovering.
In Brazil, the Health Ministry announced it is setting up an early warning system at nearly 70 hospitals and clinics across the country to watch for signs of bird flu in people.