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Virus in Romania confirmed deadly to humans, Bulgaria sandwiched

Date: 17.10.2005

Lab tests in the United Kingdom have proved that the bird virus strain found in Romania is deadly to humans.

Romania's agriculture minister said the strain is H5N1 highly pathogenic virus, the same lethal version as the one responsible for more than 60 deaths in Asia.

Neighboring Bulgaria was anxiously awaiting the news as now it finds itself sandwiched between Romania and Turkey and is feared to be the next potential destination for the virus. Earlier in the week Turkey also confirmed the bird virus was the H5N1 strain.

Bulgarian experts have been testing samples from three dead birds found in different areas of the Pleven region, about 100km from Bulgaria's Danube river border with Romania.

Fears about a Bulgarian outbreak have so far proved unfounded as no virus has been found.

Bulgaria launched precautionary measures following the confirmation of bird flu cases in the country's neighbors. It tightened border controls in a bid to stop the spread of bird flu, banned the imports of poultry from Turkey and Romania , but no crisis headquarters was immediately established.

Bulgaria's National Veterinary Medical Service announced Saturday it will purchase some 1,000 packs of the medicine Tamiflu.

European countries are relying on the anti-viral drug Tamiflu, which can be used against any strain of flu, but experts say it can have only a limited effect.

The EU Commission has already banned bird and poultry imports from Turkey and from Romania.

Experts fear H5N1 could mutate into a virus which spreads easily among humans, creating a pandemic that might kill tens of millions.

Sofia Morning News

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