H5N1 Detected in Ukraine

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine said today it had detected the highly pathogenic type of bird flu that is dangerous to humans, the strain known as H5N1, quoting preliminary Russian data.

A Ukrainian emergency rescue service worker disinfects a farm in the village of Nekrasovka in Crimea, about 800 kms south of Kiev. The presence of the H5N1 strain of the bird flu virus, potentially deadly to humans, has been confirmed in Ukraine's Crimea peninsula on the Black Sea, the country's agriculture minister said

The outbreak was located in several villages in the Crimean peninsula where about 2500 birds died within hours. Local residents said signs of the illness were detected in September and no action had been taken.

"We have information that the strain H5N1 was detected," Vyacheslav German, deputy director of the state institute for biotechnology, told a news conference.

Ukraine had sent suspect tissue from birds for laboratory tests to an institute in Russia.

Petro Verbitsky, sacked as Ukraine's chief veterinarian earlier this week, stressed the data was preliminary, but he said that confirmation was expected from Russia tomorrow.

"Preliminarily, it is H5N1," Mr Verbitsky said.

Officials said the strain was the same recently found in neighbouring Romania and in Russia.

President Viktor Yushchenko has announced a state of emergency in affected areas, a measure that the Emergency Ministry said was key to stopping the spread of the disease to other parts of the country.

The Emergency Ministry, which is overseeing measures to contain the outbreak, is carrying out a cull of domestic poultry in the affected areas on the Crimean peninsular in the Black Sea.

So far its staff has seized more than 29,000 birds in house-to-house checks in villages sealed off by an exclusion zone.

H5N1 is endemic in poultry in parts of Asia where it has killed almost 70 people.

Experts fear the virus could mutate into a form which can be transmitted easily from person to person, risking a pandemic in which millions could die.

Source: Reuters