"Anti-bird flu" water withdrawn from sale; emergency teams ready for outbreak

Photo: CTK

The threat of bird flu is moving ever closer to the Czech Republic. Most recently, neighbouring Slovakia detected its first H5N1 cases in two wild birds and the deadly strain has been confirmed in numerous wild birds and for the first time in domestic poultry in Germany. Experts say it is just a question of time before the virus reaches the Czech Republic. As the country's emergency teams are bracing themselves for a potential outbreak, some fraudsters are also trying to take advantage of the situation.

Photo: archive of ČRo 7 - Radio Prague
Until Wednesday, mineral water, labelled as preventing bird flu was on sale in supermarkets in the Czech Republic. Available in three different fruit flavours, the water claimed to boost the immune system, and keep bird flu at bay. Although the state food authority banned such labelling a month ago, the producer still claims it works.

"Our drink contains nucleotides which are proved to prevent bird flu," spokesman Roman Bajcan told TV Nova.

Experts have dismissed the water's miraculous properties and condemned the producer's move as profiteering on people's fear. All remaining supplies of the water have now been withdrawn from the shelves.

Meanwhile, veterinarians are on their guard, monitoring both poultry farms and also dead wild birds. Josef Duben is the spokesman for the State Veterinary Administration.

Photo: CTK
"People who discover dead birds report them or send them for tests to the State Veterinary Institute in Prague. Since the beginning of the year, 200 wild birds have been tested which is quite a rise over last year when some 300 hundred were tested altogether."

So far, all tests have been negative but Josef Duben says an emergency plan is ready.

"If bird flu were confirmed in a dead bird, the site would be cordoned off. All farm poultry would have to be kept indoors within a 3-kilometre zone. In a 10-kilometre zone around the spot, all transport of birds would be banned, all poultry would be tested and cars would be disinfected. The State Veterinary Administration, the police, fire fighters and hygiene authorities are all ready for the eventuality."

As of last week, commercial farmers have been banned from allowing their birds to wander freely outside. The measure now applies also to zoos around the country which are spreading nets over bird runs to prevent contact with wild birds.

Even though bird flu has not been detected in the Czech Republic, the atmosphere of general concern has already affected commercial poultry farmers who are posting considerable losses. Both demand and prices have fallen.