France Confirms Bird Flu Cases

France confirmed cases of bird flu on a turkey farm, but it was not immediately clear whether it was the deadly H5N1 strain, the agriculture minister said Friday.

International health experts were meeting with European Union health ministers in Vienna amid concern that EU governments are ill-prepared to deal with large-scale outbreaks of H5N1. EU health ministers were expected to agree to launch a targeted public information campaign to raise awareness across Europe.

"The most important thing is to send a strong message," said Austria's Health Minister Maria Rauch-Kallat. "We will focus on communication of rules and behavioral standards to be applied."

Scientists fear the deadly strain, which has spread to 10 European countries, could mutate into a form that is easily transmitted between humans, sparking a pandemic.

French Agriculture Minister Dominique Bussereau said turkeys were found to have the H5 virus, but more tests were needed to determine if it was the H5N1 strain,

If so, it would be the first time the strain had spread to poultry stocks in France -- the EU's largest poultry producer.

On Thursday, authorities sealed off a farm with more than 11,000 turkeys in the southeastern Ain region, where the deadly strain found in two wild ducks.

So far the strain has not been found in domestic birds in Germany. But on Friday, a second German state reported H5N1 in wild birds.

Two wild ducks found in the northwestern state of Schleswig-Holstein tested positive for the strain, according to the state agriculture ministry.

The H5N1 strain was first positively identified in Germany last week in the state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, which neighbors Schleswig-Holstein to the east.

A domestic duck from Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania that was suspected of having bird flu, however, tested negative for the H5N1 strain on Thursday.

Indonesia stepped up its fight against the virus on Friday. Hundreds of veterinary workers went door-to-door in the capital Jakarta, testing for bird flu and killing infected fowl.

Many people in the city of 12 million keep one or two chickens or songbirds in the their backyards.

Indonesia has the highest death toll from bird flu, 19 people in the last nine months. Most cases of bird flu have been in Jakarta.

"Bird flu has now reached an alarming level," Agriculture Minister Anton Apriyantono said.

In India, veterinary workers wearing goggles and protective suits cleaned up chicken coops in a small town hit by the disease, while China reported that a 6-year-old bird flu victim had been released from a hospital after fully recovering.

Malaysian health and veterinary workers were expanding a screening operation in bird flu-infected areas near the main city on Friday, as two people with flu-like symptoms remained under observation in a hospital.

Some 190 veterinary officials, students and other government staff began the checks around four villages in the Gombak suburb of Kuala Lumpur, where 40 chickens died from the H5N1 virus last week.

The H5N1 virus has devastated poultry stocks and killed at least 92 people, most in Asia, since 2003, according to the World Health Organization. Four deaths have been reported in Turkey and one in Iraq.