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Russia Probes Mass Bird Flu Deaths for Danger to Humans

Russia Probes Mass Bird Flu Deaths for Danger to Humans

Russian health officials are investigating the potential danger to humans from a strain of flu that killed hundreds of wild ducks in the southern Krasnodar region, a key route for migration.

Preliminary lab tests showed the birds died of a strain that belongs to the H5 sub-group of an A-type bird flu, according to the country’s food and safety watchdog, Rosselkhoznadzor.

“We have registered the outbreak in coastal lakes, in wild nature,” Rosselkhoznadzor spokesman Alexei Alekseenko said by phone from Moscow today. “There is no threat to public livestock and private poultry farms yet.”

Results should show Monday or Tuesday if the strain is the H5N1 type that can be deadly for humans, Alekseenko said. Officials have ordered a poultry farm with 40,000 chicken and within 50 kilometers of the outbreak to strengthen preventative measures to limit the outbreak, Alekseenko said.

Most bird flu viruses don’t infect humans, according to the World Health Organization, and the strain of highly pathogenic avian influenza that has killed hundreds of people is H5N1. The disease can be spread by wild water fowl, the WHO says. It can be transferred from birds to humans, but is not transmittable from human to human, Alekseenko said.

Wild ducks use lakes in Krasnodar region as stopovers during winter migration from southern Asia to southern Europe, including Italy and the Balkan states, Alekseenko said. It is not known when exactly birds may take off to their final destination from Russia, because it depends on weather conditions, he said.

There are about 12,000 wild ducks currently in the area around the outbreak area in Krasnodar, all of which will be culled if tests show the virus is H5N1, Alekseenko said.