Number of bird flu cases rises to 11

Hospital information panels in western Switzerland give advice Keystone

Four new cases of bird flu discovered in northeastern Switzerland on Sunday bring the total in wild birds across the country to 11.

This content was published on March 5, 2006 - 12:07

The Federal Veterinary Office said laboratory analysis would show within a week whether the dead water birds carried the highly contagious H5N1 virus.

The H5 virus was found in two ducks and a coot in villages in canton Thurgau, and a coot in canton Zurich.

The Federal Veterinary Office said it had sent samples, as with previous cases, to a European Union laboratory in Britain for further tests.

The veterinary office says it expects further cases in the next few days as surveillance programmes have been stepped up.

On Saturday, Health Minister Pascal Couchepin expressed concern that Switzerland was not in the position to manufacture sufficient quantities of a vaccine for the population in case of a bird flu pandemic among humans.

Couchepin told the Neue Zürcher Zeitung newspaper that Switzerland's sole vaccine producer, Berna Biotech, probably did not have the necessary capacity since much of its manufacturing had been outsourced abroad.

In December, the health minister warned that nothing could stop countries from banning exports of vaccines in case of a pandemic.

No domestic fowl

So far no domestic fowl in Switzerland have tested positive for the disease. Last month the government re-introduced an outdoor ban on poultry in an effort to prevent the disease from spreading.

Protection and observation zones have been set up around areas affected by bird flu. But the veterinary office stressed that there was no danger to the local population.

As a precautionary measure, it advised people coming in contact with dead or sick birds not to touch them with their bare hands.

Bird flu has also been spreading in countries around Switzerland over the past couple of weeks, notably in France and Germany.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

Switzerland has reported one confirmed case of H5N1.
A Swiss laboratory has so far examined about 230 dead birds suspected of being infected with bird flu.
They involve mostly wild birds, such as swans, ducks and coots, but also some samples from poultry farms.

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In brief

The highly pathogenic H5N1 virus was first isolated from a farmed goose in China in 1996.

A year later, the first cases of animal-to-human transmission were recorded in Hong Kong, resulting in six deaths.

In late 2005, the third wave of H5N1 reached eastern Europe on the backs of migrating birds, and turned up in Africa earlier this month.

In the past weeks, H5N1 has spread to Switzerland's neighbours France, Germany, Italy and Austria.

On February 26, the first suspected case was discovered in Geneva in western Switzerland. It was later confirmed to be the deadly H5N1 strain.

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