Though distant, Balts keep close watch on bird flu

  • 2005-10-19
  • From wire reports
TALLINN - Estonia's permanent representative to the European Union, Ambassador Vaino Reinart, and Foreign Ministry Undersecretary for Economic and Development Affairs Mart Laanemae attended an emergency meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg on Oct. 18 to discuss the new deadly strain of bird flu that has been detected in southeastern Europe.
The Foreign Ministry reported that the ministers met to discuss preventive measures against bird flu whose rapid spread of late 's a bird infected with the virus has been found in Greece 's is giving cause for concern.

The European Commission has sent missions to Bulgaria and Romania and asked the two countries submit lists of required protective clothing and laboratory supplies.

Technical assistance has been offered to Turkey and other countries under threat, and the import of poultry and poultry-products from all countries where bird flu has been found has been banned.

The ministers agreed on the necessity of effective prevention, constant control and supervision, and expressed satisfaction with the action plans mapped out by the Commission.

Reinart said Estonia had a domestic strategy for preventing the possible pandemic and containing a possible outbreak. A state bird flu center is being set up and a plan for obtaining a vaccine in the event of a pandemic is in place. Estonia is ready to support, within its capability, all measures taken to eliminate the existing disease's hot spots and stop further spread of the virus, the ambassador said.

In Lithuania, Health Minister Zilvinas Padaiga said authorities were taking every step to prevent possible outbreaks of the lethal bird flu.

"Considering the growing threat of the bird flu, we are taking appropriate measures. The Lithuanian flu pandemic plan has been approved. Antiviral drugs are being purchased for the purpose of the national reserve. I think that so far, the situation is totally under control," the minister told Parliament on Oct. 18.

Although the virus has caused no human casualties in Europe so far, it is feared that further spread of the virus westward may result in a global epidemic like the one that claimed millions of lives worldwide at the end of World War I.

This year, bird flu outbreaks have also been confirmed in Vietnam, China, Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia, Japan, Russia and Kazakhstan. Some 65 people were diagnosed with the disease and 23 of them died.

In 2003-2005, the bird flu infection was diagnosed in 117 people, 60 of whom died.

The virus is a malady that is typical of birds but may cause a severe respiratory condition and even death in humans. So far there are no data of the bird flu being transmitted from one human to another.