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British tests confirm first H5N1 cases in Hungary

Written by: Staff
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BUDAPEST, Feb 21 (Reuters) A British laboratory detected the deadly H5N1 bird flu strain in three dead swans found in Hungary last week, confirming the first cases of the virus in the country, the government said today.

''According to the official British tests, the three dead swans found in Hungary last week had the H5N1 bird flu strain,'' spokesman Andras Batiz said.

Chief Veterinarian Miklos Suth said samples from four more swans from the same area in southern Hungary sent for testing this week were also expected to test positive for H5N1.

''We are quite sure that in these cases also the H5N1 virus will be confirmed,'' Suth told a press conference.

He said no further precautionary measures were needed after the steps taken last week when the swans found near the villages of Nagybaracska and Csatalja had tested positive for the H5 bird flu virus.

Batiz said Hungary had already produced 20,000 doses of vaccine, enough to treat everybody working directly with poultry if the virus spreads onto domestic poultry.

The vaccine is being manufactured by the government and a private company called Omninvest, and is expected to be licensed by March.

Human trials carried out last year in Hungary had shown the shot to work against H5N1.

The government today also approved 3.5 billion forints (16.57 million dollar) in state subsidies to help poultry breeders and a further 2.3 billion forints to pay for the costs of the implementation of bird flu related measures.

Batiz said a further 200 million forints would be spent on promotion of Hungarian poultry.

Poultry sales in Hungary have been so far unaffected.

Hungary had applied the same precautionary measures as other European Union countries where H5N1 virus has been confirmed or was suspected in wild birds.

REUTERS MP RAI0026

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