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NO FLY ZONE; Britain faces no-go areas under beat deadly plan to bird flu.

Byline: By Pippa Crerar Political Correspondent

NO-GO zones are being planned across the countryside as deadly bird flu comes nearer Britain.

The one-mile exclusion zones - similar to those used in the foot and mouth outbreak five years ago - are part of a Government emergency plan revealed yesterday.

Animal health minister Ben Bradshaw confirmed the measures after it was revealed that two swans found dead in northern Germany this week carried the potentially lethal H5N1 strain of bird flu.

Slovenia yesterday announced its first case of H5N1 - in a swan found dead just nine miles from the Austrian border.

Austria and Hungary have also reported possible cases but are waiting for results.

Health experts say the disease will certainly spread to Britain, possibly faster than expected as birds are migrating to escape freezing conditions in mainland Europe at the moment.

Dr David Nabarro, the UN's top bird flu specialist, said: "It is spreading throughout the world."

But Bradshaw insisted: "It is more likely now than it was but it is not inevitable. But clearly the closer it gets to us, the risk grows."

If an outbreak of bird flu is detected in Britain, the "buffer" zones would be set up for 21 days by Government veterinary officials.

Footpaths inside the no-go areas would be closed and movement of farm animals banned.

All poultry and pigs would be tested for the virus and would be culled if found to be infected.

There would also be 30-day, six-mile surveillance zones in which farms would need a licence before they could transport any poultry.

Bird flu has already killed up to 90 people in south-east Asia and two children died from it in Turkey earlier this year.

All the deaths involved very close contact between the victims and dead birds - but there are fears the virus could eventually mutate into a form which could be transmitted from human to human.

Department of the Environment and Rural Affairs officials said the protection zones would be used to safeguard human health. They confirmed that people could have their access to pathways in infected areas restricted.

But the animal health minister stressed the zones would be set up to restrict poultry movements - not humans.

He insisted the Government were not planning to close down the countryside over bird flu fears.

Bradshaw said: "All that is happening is that measures already in our contingency plan for an outbreak in poultry are being extended to wild birds.

"The movements that would be affected would be those of poultry, not of human beings."

He added: "Bird flu spreads through bird faeces. It is not nearly as easy to spread as foot and mouth, which is spread on the air, and it is not nearly as virulent."

All the infected EU countries have already set up exclusion zones as part of Europe-wide emergency measures.

The European Commission are giving a pounds 1.3million handout to governments to help pay for early-warning surveillance plans to combat the spread of the disease.

Britain will get about pounds 65,000 to take samples from wild and domestic birds to see if they have the virus.

Meanwhile, a cold snap on the continent could raise the risk of bird flu arriving in Britain.

Experts believe wild swans with the virus could be forced west to Britain in search of warmth and food. '

TOLL SO FAR

Countries across Europe, Africa and the Middle East where H5N1 bird flu outbreaks are suspected or have been confirmed

Austria, 1 suspected outbreak in February.

Azerbaijan, 1 confirmed outbreak in February.

Bulgaria, 1 confirmed outbreak in February.

Croatia, 3 confirmed outbreaks since October.

Greece, 2 confirmed outbreaks in February.

Germany, 1 confirmed outbreak in February.

Italy, 1 confirmed outbreak in February.

Iraq, 3 confirmed outbreaks since January.

Nigeria, 3 confirmed outbreaks, 5 suspected outbreaks in February.

Romania, 39 confirmed outbreaks since October.

Russia, 62 confirmed outbreaks since July.

Slovenia, one confirmed in February

Turkey, 56 confirmed since October.

Ukraine, 33 confirmed since December.

CAPTION(S):

ALERT: A swan lies dead on the island of Ruegen in Germany' EMERGENCY: Ben Bradshaw
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Feb 17, 2006
Words:680
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