EU confirms UK controls to stop bird flu spread

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BRUSSELS, Nov 13 (Reuters) Britain's efforts to contain the spread of the lethal H5N1 strain of bird flu won approval today from the European Commission, which confirmed a series of high-risk zones and restrictions on poultry movement.

British authorities had already set up a protection zone with a radius of 3 km and a surveillance zone of 10 km (4 miles) around the affected site in eastern England where officials began slaughtering thousands of turkeys today.

''In the restricted zone, all domestic birds must be kept indoors, and all gatherings of poultry and other captive birds are prohibited in England,'' the Commission said in a statement.

''Poultry cannot be moved (except directly to the slaughterhouse) and meat cannot be dispatched from the zone unless very stringent conditions are met.'' The affected farm, located on the border between the counties of Norfolk and Suffolk, held 5,000 fattening turkeys, 1,180 ducks and 400 geese, the Commission said, adding that only the turkeys had shown any clinical signs of the disease.

The EU executive also praised Britain for acting quickly to deal with the outbreak, applying measures that are part of a standard legal procedure that all EU countries must follow when there are outbreaks of bird flu on national territory.

''Upon suspicion of the virus, the UK authorities responded rapidly, immediately applying the precautionary measures laid down in the EU Avian Influenza Control Directive and the additional measures for the H5N1 virus,'' the statement said. EU vets will meet on November 20 to review Britain's bird flu status.

The H5N1 strain of bird flu has killed more than 200 people worldwide since 2003 and millions of birds have either died from it or been killed to prevent its spread.

REUTERS SBC VC2344

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