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Deadly Bird Flu Confirmed in Croatia

Croatian officials confirmed that swans found dead last week had the lethal H5N1 bird flu virus strain. In Germany, experts found the virus in geese, but said there is no indication it is the form that can kill humans.

Croatia detected the bird flu in dead swans in the country's northeast

The bird flu virus detected in Croatia is the H5N1 strain that has killed more than 60 people in Asia, a veterinary official said Wednesday, citing results from tests done at a British laboratory.

"The results carried out by the laboratory in Weybridge have reached us, and there is no great surprise, it is what we were expecting. It is the highly pathogenic H5N1," Vladimir Savic told a news conference.

Since late last week Croatian health authorities have detected two pockets of avian influenza among swans found dead in the country's rural northeast.

Samples from the first find at a lake near Zdenci village on Friday were sent to the British laboratory for testing. The second set of dead swans was discovered about 15 kilometers (nine miles) away at Nasice on Monday.

Croatian health authorities said the dead Nasice birds would not be sent to Britain for further examination because they believed the swans were from the same flock.

"All the measures which we already adopted were justified," said Savic, referring to the action authorities had taken since to destroy thousands of chickens and other poultry in the areas.

"It is because we had preliminary results within 48 hours (of the discovery of the dead swans) that we were able to prevent the spread of the disease," he said.

Germany: no indication of deadly strain

Under the microscope: H5N1 is the strain of the bird flu virus that is deadly to humans

Veterinary experts in Germany were on Wednesday carrying out further tests on two dead geese found to have a strain of bird flu but said there was currently nothing to indicate it was the form of the virus that can kill humans.

Initial tests showed that the geese, which were among 25 found dead at a lake in western Germany, died from poisoning, probably after ingesting rat poison, rather than from the bird flu virus.

But a strain of bird flu was discovered in two of the geese, a statement from the regional Rhineland-Palatinate government said.

Further tests on Wednesday should reveal whether the birds were carrying the H5N1 strain of the virus which has killed more than 60 people in Asia since 2003.

If proved, it would be the first case of the deadly virus to be found in Germany and it would also be the first case of the deadly form in a migratory bird in western Europe.

Officials however downplayed the initial discovery.

Stefan Bent, the German official in charge of the tests, said it was "not surprising" that the geese were carrying bird flu as traces of the virus are often found in wild and migratory birds.

The lake where the geese were found in Neuwied is a stopping-off place for birds migrating south from northern Europe to warmer areas.

"We will energetically pursue any evidence and if applicable, look for the sub-type H5N1," Bent said late on Tuesday.

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