Measures come into force to protect farm poultry against bird flu after first case detected in wild bird

Photo: CTK

Experts said it was only a matter of time and they were right. After bird flu had been reported in all of its neighbours, on Monday the Czech Republic finally detected its first case of avian flu in its H5 form in a dead swan. While further tests are being carried out to prove whether the bird was infected with the aggressive H5N1 variety, special measures have come into effect in the area where the dead bird was found.

Photo: CTK
The dead swan was found floating on the Vltava River near the town of Hluboka nad Vltavou in South Bohemia. Although experts assume it got infected and died elsewhere upstream, preventative measures have been introduced in the area of the finding, such as the creation of two protective zones. Josef Duben is the spokesman for the State Veterinary Administration.

"In the three-kilometre zone around the place, there is a total ban on outdoor breeding of poultry. Farmers are obliged to report all suspicious deaths and sick birds which will then be tested. In the ten-kilometre zone, there is a ban on the transport of birds and poultry products. No poultry product is allowed to leave the area. If bird flu is not detected in farm poultry, the situation will return back to normal in some three to four weeks time."

Photo: CTK
In case the H5N1 strain is confirmed by tests in the dead swan, these measures will be stepped up. Their aim is to prevent the virus from spreading from wild birds to farm poultry. The Czech Republic's Chief Hygiene Officer, Michael Vit, says the risk of transmission to humans is very small if people observe basic hygiene rules in handling with birds.

"All transfers to humans that have been reported so far occurred under very poor hygiene conditions where there was a very close contact between the person and the infected bird and there was a high infectious dose. I believe this cannot be expected here in the Czech Republic."

Bird flu has already hit 45 countries in Asia, Europe and Africa. According to the World Health Organisation, the H5N1 strain of bird flu has killed about 100 people worldwide. Millions of birds have been slaughtered around the world as experts fear the virus could mutate and spread easily from human to human.