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WHO nõuab EU-lt aktiivset võitlust linnugripiga

WHO urges stronger response as bird flu hits EU link

ZURICH, Feb 11 (Reuters) - The World Health Organisation (WHO) called on Saturday for stronger surveillance and response after the first reported outbreak of the H5N1 bird flu virus in the European Union.

However, the Geneva-based U.N. health agency said it saw no reason to escalate its pandemic alert level.
"Surveillance and response of H5N1 in both animals and humans needs to be strengthened in all regions bordering countries where outbreaks have been identified," said WHO spokesman Dick Thompson.

Earlier on Saturday, Greece and Italy said they had found dead swans with the H5N1 bird flu virus, the first known cases in the European Union of wild birds with the deadly strain of the disease.

Intensified surveillance meant alerting hospitals to be on the lookout for patients arriving with flu symptoms and to ask whether they had any contact with sick birds. It also meant speeding up official reporting to health and veterinary officials of sudden deaths among birds, Thompson said.

"At this point it is still an animal disease and does not transmit very easily to humans," he told Reuters by telephone. "Even more rare is that it would transmit from one human to another."

However, he urged caution when dealing with sick or dead animals.

"It is important that people understand that they do not handle sick animals," he said. "We believe it has the potential to evolve into a pandemic virus."

Italy said wild swans found in the island of Sicily and the mainland regions of Puglia and Calabria had tested positive for the highly pathogenic version of the H5N1 strain.

Nigeria started testing people who had fallen ill close to where the virus was found in birds, in Africa's first outbreak of the disease.

"When the virus shows up in a new country, it doesn't mean that the pandemic has started, it means that the animal disease has spread," Thompson said.

"The animal disease is spreading and if we get the alert out now to humans we can lower the risk," he said.

The virus has killed at least 84 people in Asia since early 2003 and forced affected nations to cull millions of domestic fowl. Indonesia reported on Saturday that a 27-year-old woman had died of the disease, the second in two days.

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