EU veterinary experts were hold talks after new bird flu outbreaks

EU veterinary experts were holding talks Wednesday to assess what countries could do further to contain the spread of the H5N1 bird flu strain, after several European countries reported outbreaks.

The European Commission said it received information from German authorities late Tuesday that preliminary tests indicated two dead swans on the Baltic Sea island of Rugen were infected with H5N1, which scientists fear could mutate into a strain more easily passed between humans and spark a pandemic.

Authorities in Greece, Italy and Austria also reported cases of H5N1 in birds found dead over the past week, after preliminary lab tests.

Further tests on the samples from those countries were being conducted at the EU's reference laboratory in Britain, for confirmation of the preliminary results.

The EU veterinary experts were holding two days of talks, starting Wednesday, to reviewing the situation in affected EU countries, and to consider boosting surveillance or precautionary measures.

Already, the EU calls for establishing a 3-kilometer (2-mile) protection zone around areas where infected birds are found, and a surrounding surveillance zone of 10 kilometers (6 miles), the Commission said.

In the protection zone, all poultry must be kept indoors, poultry cannot be transported except directly to slaughterhouses, and hunting wild fowl is banned, reports the AP.

I.L.