Deadly Bird Flu Found in Croatia

The European Union (search) said Wednesday the dangerous H5N1 strain of bird flu has been found in Croatia, while authorities said a second parrot that died in quarantine in Britain was also infected with the virus.

The Chinese government, meanwhile, announced that a bird flu outbreak has killed 545 chickens and ducks in a village in central China (search) — the country's third case of the disease in two weeks. A government laboratory confirmed the virus was the H5N1 strain that has devastated poultry populations in Asia and killed 62 people.

The Croatian case was confirmed by a British lab that tested samples from six swans found dead last week in a nature park. The birds had tested positive for the H5 subtype on Friday.

The European Commission (search) on Monday issued a precautionary ban on imports of live poultry, wild birds and feathers from the Balkan country. "That ban remains in force," said EU Commission spokesman Philip Tod.

Croatia also has stopped exporting live poultry.

Croatian authorities said they disinfected and quarantined the region around the site where the dead swans were found, and all domestic poultry there were slaughtered and incinerated.

Officials said none of the domestic poultry tested positive for bird flu.

Croatia is the latest European nation to report a case of H5N1 as it moves west. It was discovered earlier in Romania, Turkey and Russia, and several other European countries have been checking dead birds.

Health experts fear the virus, which is currently difficult for humans to acquire, will mutate into a form that is easily spread from person to person, possibly sparking a global pandemic that kills millions.

In London, British Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett told the House of Commons on Wednesday that a second South American parrot had been infected with the H5N1 strain in quarantine in that country. The bird was with another one that Britain confirmed on Sunday was infected with the virus.

Beckett said the virus had probably come through Taiwan.

A Taiwanese health official said Wednesday, however, that the country plans to lodge a protest with Britain over the allegations after the farm that raised the birds was found to be free of the disease.

The latest Chinese outbreak prompted authorities to destroy nearly 2,500 birds in Hunan province in an effort to contain the virus, the Agriculture Ministry said in a report posted on the Web site of the Paris-based World Organization for Animal Health.

The ministry said the third outbreak there was "under control," the official Xinhua News Agency reported. However, a U.N. official countered that not enough was being done to contain the deadly illness in the country.

"If there are frequent outbreaks, that means some measures are not being taken," said Noureddin Mona, the Beijing representative for the Food and Agriculture Organization. "The repeated outbreaks really is a signal of seriousness and the inability of the surveillance system."

A bird flu outbreak last week killed 2,600 chickens and ducks in China's northern region of Inner Mongolia. Another this week killed 550 geese in Anhui province.

In other bird flu developments Wednesday:

— In Germany, officials said that preliminary tests on wild geese found dead there came back positive for bird flu but said further tests were needed to see if they had the H5N1 strain.

— Hungary said six pigeons found dead last week had tested negative for bird flu.

— Tests showed that 70 chickens found dead in Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus were not infected with bird flu, Greek Cypriot officials said.