LONDON – Tests have confirmed that a dead swan found in Scotland had the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu, Britain's first case of the virus, a government official said Thursday. Britain's national farming union and the Scottish Executive said the swan died of H5N1.
The wild swan was discovered last week at a harbor in Cellardyke, more than 450 miles north of London. British government officials have restricted the movement of poultry and are considering whether to expand a two-mile protection zone around the harbor.
The National Farmers' Union was concerned over the disease's arrival in Britain but cautioned the public to stay calm, union president Peter Kendall said.
"There are no implications for public health or consumers," he said.
The dead swan makes Britain the 13th EU country to report cases of the strain in wild birds, the European Commission said.
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds said it would carry out daily checks on nature reserves in Scotland to determine whether the disease has infected other birds.
"We are now stepping up our bird monitoring work on our reserves, particularly those where swans and wild fowl are found," said RSPB Scotland director Stuart Housden.
The British government's crisis committee met earlier to discuss how to implement contingency plans, Britain's Cabinet Office said. Plans include recommendations to house or isolate domestic birds from wild birds and to keep all birds indoors within a protected zone.
One option was a short-term ban on the movement of poultry. Another was to cull some birds.
At least 109 people have died worldwide from bird flu since a wave of outbreaks of the H5N1 strain swept through Asian poultry populations in late 2003, according to the World Health Organization.
Health experts fear the H5N1 virus will eventually mutate into a form that spreads easily among people, potentially sparking a global bird flu pandemic. So far, the virus remains hard for humans to catch and most cases have been traced to contact with infected birds.
In Egypt, Health Ministry spokesman Iman Mohammed Abdel Gawad said a 16-year-old girl died of H5N1, the country's third death. Gawad also said that an 8-year-old boy has tested positive for the virus, the country's 11th case, including the three deaths.
The girl and the boy are from the same province in the Nile Delta, north of the capital. Both families raised poultry, Abdel Gawad said.
The National Farmers' Union said Scotland's poultry industry is worth more than $202 million per year.
Two dead swans discovered in the Scottish city of Glasgow, 400 miles north of London, also were being tested for bird flu, city officials said Thursday.