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Deadly avian flu strain detected in wild birds in northwestern Iran

TEHRAN, 15 Feb 2006 (IRIN) - The killer strain of avian influenza known as bird flu has been detected in dead wild birds in northwestern Iran, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

"It is the H5N1 strain, but there have been no human cases, it has only been found in dead wild swans. The dead swans which were found during surveillance tested positive yesterday. There are no positive cases among domestic poultry or industrial [commercial] poultry," Tarin Esanullah from the WHO said from the capital, Tehran, on Wednesday.

"There are no positive or suspected human cases of H5N1 [in Iran]. The dead birds were found in the northwest of the country on 2 February and the situation is now under control," Esanullah added.

The Iran Veterinary Organisation (IVO) said in a report sent to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) that the dead swans were found in two sites in the Anzali wetlands of the northwestern Gilan province. Immediately, protection and surveillance zones were established in the area.

Around 18,500 domestic birds in six villages within a radius of 2 km around the affected sites have been culled and owners have received compensation, IVO said.

"All poultry around the wetlands were already identified, the movement of poultry products is under control, assembly of live birds at markets is banned and awareness raising among poultry owners boosted," the IVO report read.

According to the WHO, avian influenza is a contagious disease of animals caused by viruses that normally infect only birds and, less commonly, pigs. Avian influenza viruses are highly species specific, but in some cases infect humans.

The outbreaks of highly pathogenic bird flu, which began in Southeast Asia in mid-2003, are the largest and most severe on record, the WHO said, adding that never before in the history of the disease had so many countries been simultaneously affected, resulting in the loss of so many birds.

The causative agent, the H5N1 virus, has proved to be especially tenacious. Despite the death or destruction of an estimated 150 million birds, the virus is now considered endemic in many parts of Indonesia and Vietnam and in some parts of Cambodia, China and Thailand.

The killer H5N1 strain has claimed the lives of more than 80 in Asia since 2003, including four in Iran's western neighbour Turkey, in January 2006.

The above article comes to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2006

... Payvand News - 2/16/06 ... --

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