Avian flu infects swans in Poland, cats in Austria

Mar 6, 2006 (CIDRAP News) – The European expansion of H5N1 avian influenza continued with discovery of the virus in two swans in Poland, while three cats in an Austrian animal shelter tested positive for the virus as well, according to reports today.

A Polish laboratory identified the virus in two swans found dead in the northern city of Torun, news services reported. The cases were the first ones reported in Poland.

A veterinary official, Jan Zmudzinski, told Agence France-Presse (AFP), "Yes, we have confirmed that it is definitely H5N1." He said samples would be sent to the European Union reference laboratory in Weybridge, England, for confirmatory testing.

Polish authorities began taking precautions yesterday, after experts announced that the swans were probably infected, according to AFP. A 3-kilometer hygiene-security zone was set up around where the birds were found on the banks of the Vistula River.

Zmudzinski said several other dead birds found in the Torun area had been tested, but no other cases were found, according to the story.

In Austria, three live cats from the Noah's Ark animal shelter in the southern town of Graz tested positive, according to another AFP report. A chicken in the same shelter had been found infected with the virus about 2 weeks ago, marking the first known case in a domestic bird in Europe, the story said.

The shelter had placed infected chickens in cages next to pens holding cats and dogs in the belief that the virus could not spread from birds to mammals, according to AFP.

Testing of cats in the shelter began last week, after German officials announced the discovery of a dead cat infected with H5N1 on the Baltic Sea island of Ruegen, the report said. All 170 cats in the shelter were to be tested. An Associated Press (AP) report described the three infected cats as sick.

All the cats from the shelter have been moved to another site where they were to be monitored, the AP quoted Austrian Health Minister Maria Rauch-Kallat as saying.

In Serbia, authorities confirmed H5N1 infection in two swans found dead in northern and western regions, according to another AFP report today. Last week officials had reported finding an H5 virus in one swan.

One of the infected swans was found Mar 2 at Backi Monostor near the Danube River, less than 6 miles from the border with Croatia and Hungary, AFP reported. The other swan was discovered over the weekend near Bacevci village on the Drina River, which forms the border with Bosnia.

In southern France, the virus turned up in a wild swan found dead about 31 miles east of Camargue, marking the first case outside an area near the Swiss border, according to a Bloomberg News report published yesterday. Camargue is a nesting area for thousands of flamingos and is also home to a third of France's ducks from September to March, the story said.

In Uganda, the newspaper the Daily Monitor reported yesterday that the unexplained deaths of thousands of poultry on farms in several districts had triggered an avian flu scare. Today, a report from the Ugandan Web site The New Vision said a Ugandan official had reported that tests at a lab in Nairobi, Kenya, had found no avian flu in samples from the birds.

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