Ukraine Bird Flu Update - State Of Emergency Declared

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine recorded its first bird flu outbreak yesterday, prompting the president to declare a state of emergency in four Crimean villages following the deaths of more than 1,600 chickens and geese.

Ukrainian Agriculture Minister Oleksander Baranivsky shows the map during a news conference in Kiev, December 2, 2005. Ukrainian authorities introduced tough measures on Saturday to combat an outbreak of bird flu in the Crimea peninsula, slapping exclusion zone around affected villages and ordering the slaughter of all birds in them

Dead birds in the Black Sea peninsula tested positive for the H5 subtype, officials said. Bird flu had already been detected in neighbouring Romania nearly two months ago, and Ukrainian officials scrambled to reassure this nation of 47 million that they were well-prepared.

Ukrainians, meanwhile, began debating whether to stop buying poultry - the only meat many in this poor nation can afford.

"I don't see any reason for panic, the situation is under control," Agriculture Minister Oleksandr Baranivsky told reporters in Kiev after announcing a 3-kilometre (2-mile) quarantine around the four villages.

Samples were sent to laboratories in Italy and Britain for further tests to determine whether the disease could be the deadly H5N1 strain, which is being monitored for fear it could mutate into a form that is easily transferable among humans. The results are expected by Thursday, Baranivsky said.

Worldwide attention is focused on the H5N1 strain, which has devastated poultry stocks in Asia and killed at least 69 people in the region since 2003.

Domestic fowl began dying in Ukraine's Crimean region on Oct. 18, but the deaths increased significantly last month, rising to 1,621. Positive test results for the H5 strain came back Saturday, Baranivsky said.

He attributed the bird flu to contact between migratory birds at the Crimea's Lake Savash and domestic fowl. The peninsula had been seen as an area of special concern for authorities because it is a landing spot for many migratory birds.

Under the state-of-emergency ordered by President Viktor Yushchenko, no one will be allowed to enter or leave the quarantine, and experts will visit every home to inform residents to count flocks. All birds - even if healthy - will be slaughtered, starting Sunday and their carcasses burned.

Residents will be compensated as much as 10 hryvna (about US$2; euro2) for each culled bird, Baranivsky said.

The state of emergency also sets up a larger 10-kilometre (6-mile) zone that will be put under close monitoring.

Source: AP