State scrambles to deal with bird flu outbreaks

Photo: CTK

The Czech Republic is the latest country in Europe to report the outbreak of bird flu. On Wednesday, Minister of Agriculture Marian Jurečka confirmed that the highly contagious Avian Influenza was discovered in birds at two poultry farms in South Moravia. Following tests on a dead specimen, veterinary officials confirmed that the flu strain is the highly pathogenic H5N and have ordered a safety perimeter instated around the farm.

Photo: CTK
The bird flu pathogen was found in dead swans in the region of Znojmo and in two small poultry farms in the Moravský Krumlov and Ivančice districts in the south of the country. Authorities have already enforced a three-kilometre protective perimeter and an outer 10-kilometre surveillance zone, to seal the farms off. There are about 150,000 birds in this area.

Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday morning, Agriculture Minister Marian Jurečka said the outbreak of bird flu in the Czech Republic was only a question of time. Over the previous months, cases have been confirmed in most of the other central European countries, including Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, Austria and Germany.

The head of the State Veterinary Authority Zbyněk Semerád said tests confirmed it was the highly contagious form of the disease:

Zbyněk Semerád,  photo: CTK
“I can confirm that the avian influenza is the highly pathogenic subtype H5. We cannot confirm yet if it is the H5N8 type, but it is very likely, since the same type was detected in other EU member states. We will be monitoring the area and take measures in the affected farms. Poultry at the farms will be slaughtered by the State Veterinary Office in cooperation with the emergency services.”

Mr Semerád also said there was a ban on the sale of birds and eggs from the affected farms and farms in the 10-kilometre zone until further notice.

While the H5 strain of Avian Influenza is highly dangerous for birds, it has never caused illness in human beings. Nevertheless, hygiene officers will still test all the people who have been in contact with the infected birds.

Minister Jurečka has also appealed to poultry farmers to immediately inform the authorities in case they find dead birds:

Marian Jurečka,  photo: CTK
“I would like to appeal to all poultry breeders, both private and commercial ones, to immediately contact the State Veterinary Authority or at least the nearest veterinarian office in case they discover any dead specimen in their brood, and not to conceal the information.”

The highly contagious strain of bird flu was last detected in the Czech Republic in 2007. More than 171,000 birds had to be culled at poultry farms and another nearly 2,000 backyard birds had to be slaughtered as a result of the outbreak. Poultry farmers received 50 million crowns from the state in compensation.