Romania reduces avian flu quarantines in Bucharest

May 23, 2006 (CIDRAP News) – Romanian officials today lifted quarantines that had sealed off more than 14,000 people in Bucharest over worries sparked by two outbreaks of avian influenza in birds, but one small area remained closed, according to news agencies.

Although Romania has had no human cases of H5N1 avian flu, troops and police yesterday sealed more than 13,000 people in Bucharest's southern fourth district, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP). A smaller area on the northern outskirts of the capital had been closed off the night before, affecting more than 1,000 people, AFP reported.

Today the quarantine in the southern fourth district was reduced and the northern area was reopened. "We decided to isolate only five streets, or less than 500 people, so as not to distress the population," said Adrian Inimaroiu, the district mayor, as quoted by AFP.

Yesterday Inimaroiu had said the quarantine would last from a week to 21 days, during which "all institutions" would be closed, and 2,500 birds would be culled, the story said. But he reported today that only 230 birds in "high-risk streets" had been killed.

Inimaroiu was sharply criticized by Miorara Mantale, general administrator of Bucharest, over the quarantines. "There is no logical reason for putting 13,000 people under quarantine when only two farm yards have been contaminated," AFP quoted Mantale as saying. "If you had been a civil servant and not elected, you would have been fired."

The quarantines followed numerous outbreaks in poultry in recent days. According to AFP, Agriculture Minister Gheorge Flutur said today the virus had surfaced in 44 places, including the two in Bucharest, in the past 10 days.

Last week the government reported the discovery of avian flu on commercial poultry farms in three central counties. Previously the virus had been found in a number of backyard poultry flocks since October 2005.

Tests at the European Union reference laboratory in Weybridge, England, confirmed the H5N1 virus in seven samples from Brasov county in central Romania, AFP reported yesterday. Today's AFP story said Romanian officials have not been able to determine how the virus reached Bucharest.

In other recent developments, Canada announced last week that its surveillance for avian flu in wild birds this year will focus primarily on the north Atlantic region and will be coordinated with the US surveillance program.

The 2006 survey will cover all the main bird migration routes in Canada, but "it will place a greater focus on the north Atlantic region, which hosts birds that might come into contact with birds from Europe where the Asian H5N1 strain has been found in several countries," Canadian government agencies said in a joint news release. "This component will include sampling in Iceland, which hosts migratory birds from both North America and Europe.”

"Canada is coordinating its survey approach with the United States, which has announced plans to conduct extensive surveillance along the Pacific Flyway, which intersects with Asian migratory routes," the statement continued. US officials earlier announced plans to test as many as 100,000 birds, mostly in Alaska and along the West Coast.

This year's Canadian survey will include expanded testing of dead birds, starting in southern Canada in midsummer, officials said. They said they expect to find a variety of avian flu viruses, most of which have little effect on the birds' health or that of other animals.

See also:

May 18 news release on Canada's wild-bird surveillance program
http://www.ec.gc.ca/press/2006/060518_n_e.htm

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