Ukraine Reports First Outbreak of Bird Flu

Ukraine reported on Saturday its first outbreak of bird flu, discovered among some 1,500 dead chickens and geese in the Black Sea region of Crimea.

The dead birds, mostly domesticated chickens and geese, tested positive for the H5 type of bird flu, the Agriculture Ministry said. It said samples would be sent to laboratories in Italy and Britain for tests to determine whether it is the virulent H5N1 strain, which can be deadly to humans.

The bird flu outbreak began in 2003 in Asia, where it has devastated flocks and jumped from birds to humans, killing at least 68 people, most of them in Vietnam and Thailand. Some experts fear the disease could mutate into a form that is easily transferable among humans and cause a pandemic.

Bird flu has been detected in neighboring countries, and Ukraine's Black Sea peninsula has been an area of special concern because it is a landing spot for many migratory birds.

The dead birds were found in the Crimea's Sovetskiy and Nizhnegorskiy regions, said Oleksandr Horobets, spokesman for the Agriculture Ministry. Experts were dispatched to the Black Sea peninsula to investigate, Horobets added.

He said authorities had imposed a quarantine on the villages, and people in contact with the dead birds were being monitored for health problems.

President Viktor Yushchenko's chief-of-staff, Oleh Rybachuk, convened a special meeting Saturday to discuss how to prevent more outbreaks.

The ex-Soviet republic had already adopted tough border controls and strengthened regulations in its own poultry industry.

On Saturday, the country banned all sales of domestic fowl in the Crimea.