Ukrainian emergency officials said Friday that nearly 60,000 domestic fowl have been slaughtered in an attempt to prevent the spread of bird flu despite strong resistance by impoverished villagers. The Emergency Situations Ministry said that about 59,162 birds had been removed from courtyards on the Crimean Peninsula, gassed and burned as part of a sweep of that began after Ukraine recorded its first bird flu case on Dec. 3.
The effort, though, hasn't always gone smoothly. Villagers have chased off emergency workers with pitchforks. Others hid their birds in sheds, refusing to give up the chickens, ducks, turkeys and other fowl they depend on for eggs and meat.
Many say they are willing instead to take their chances in the fight against a strain of bird flu that has killed humans in Asia and decimated flocks of birds there.
The Health Ministry confirmed on Wednesday that the outbreak on the Black Sea peninsula was the deadly strain H5N1, which has been recorded in at least 11 Crimean villages. Birds are dying in another 14 on the peninsula.
International experts fear the H5N1 strain of bird flu could trigger a human flu pandemic if it mutates into a form that is easily spread between people. Since 2003, the virus has killed at least 71 people in Asia, most of them farm workers who came into close contact with infected birds. No cases of human infection have been recorded in Ukraine, health and emergency officials said, reports the AP. I.L.