BRUSSELS, Belgium – The European Union on Thursday said the bird flu virus found in Turkish poultry was the H5N1 (search) strain that scientists worry might mutate into a human virus and spark a pandemic. Turkey's health minister said the outbreak had been contained.
"We have received now confirmation that the virus found in Turkey is an avian flu H5N1 virus," said EU Health Commissioner Markos Kyprianou. "There is a direct relationship with viruses found in Russia, Mongolia and China."
The birds were found dead in a village outside of Balikesir, western Turkey, which has been under a two-mile quarantine (search) for the past week.
Turkish Health Minister Recep Akdag said the outbreak had been contained and urged the public to remain calm, saying the country was well-prepared.
"Bird flu is totally under control," Akdag said. "The outbreak in winged animals occurred in one area and has been contained."
Kyprianou said authorities were assessing precautionary measures to warn people traveling to countries where the disease has been diagnosed to avoid "going to farms, coming in contact with wild birds and so on."
He said the European Commission was proposing to set aside $1.2 billion to help make and distribute anti-virals and vaccines "in case of a pandemic."
He advised EU countries to administer the standard flu vaccine to vulnerable populations: people over age 65, young children, those with weakened immune systems or chronic respiratory conditions and those living near the outbreak sites. There is no vaccine to protect against bird flu, but experts believe the standard flu vaccine could help.
Kyprianou urged EU nations to stockpile anti-viral drugs, saying: "It's the first line of defense."
The H5N1 bird flu strain does not easily infect humans, but 117 people, mostly poultry workers, have caught it over the last two years and 60 of them have died. Scientists are tracking the spread of the virus in birds because it could mutate into a dangerous human pandemic strain.
Turkish authorities killed 7,600 domestic birds and disinfected 12 acres of land in the affected area, after 1,800 birds died on a farm there last week.
Turkey has asked the Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche Holding AG for 1 million boxes of a standard flu medicine as a precaution, said a Health Ministry official who spoke on condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to speak to the press. Each box contains 10 capsules.
Turkish authorities believe the turkeys contracted the disease from migratory birds that pass through the Manyas Bird Sanctuary in Balikesir, on their way to Africa from the Ural mountains in Russia.
Elsewhere, experts confirmed that a strain of the bird flu virus has been found in samples taken from dead birds in Romania's Danube Delta, the agriculture minister said Thursday.
The samples are being sent to Britain to identify the specific strain. So far there are no indications it is the H5N1 strain.
"We hope it's a low intensity virus," said Agriculture Minister Gheorghe Flutur. "We are continuing measures to isolate the affected area."
The Interior Ministry has extended a quarantine in the village of Ceamurlia de Jos, where the infected fowl was found, to people. Only authorities are allowed to enter and exit the remote village, which is located in the east of the delta, close to the Black Sea.