A second case of the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus has been confirmed in a wild duck in France, Agriculture Ministry officials said Thursday.
The duck was found dead on Feb. 19 in the Ain region. The discovery followed a first case of bird flu found a week ago in another duck found dead in the same region, in southeastern France.
The second duck was found in the village of Bouvent, some 22 miles from the site of the first case, in the village of Joyeux.
Special surveillance measures are being put in place around Bouvent, according to the Agriculture Ministry, which plans to check vehicles to ensure that no poultry leaves the region.
France is Europe's largest poultry producer. Last week, the government ordered all domestic birds indoors or, in a few regions, vaccinated in a bid to halt bird flu. Violators could face fines of up to euro750 (US$895).
With poultry sales down by 25 to 30 percent since the first case was reported last week, both French President Jacques Chirac and Prime Minister Dominque de Villepin are doing what they can to boost consumer confidence.
"I order you [to] remind our compatriots that bird flu doesn't affect poultry farms and that there is no danger in consuming poultry and eggs," said Chirac, in a meeting with government ministers.
De Villepin, for his part, appeared on television - eating chicken and cradling a chick in his arms while visited the region of France where the dead ducks were found.
In other recent developments:
Crews have already been culling poultry in the Ruegen area, and some 300 army troops have been deployed to aid in the cleanup and disinfection effort. Chancellor Angela Merkel has been urging farmers to keep their poultry indoors, to avoid infecting domestic birds.
EU health ministers are scheduled to hold talks Friday in Vienna with U.N. experts on the virus.
The Malaysian government said Monday that bird flu was found in 40 chickens that died just outside of Kuala Lumpur. Since then, 1,970 chickens, 62 ducks and 72 other birds have been killed and 505 eggs destroyed in within a .6 mile radius of the villages.
Nine people have been hospitalized with flu-like symptoms in Navapur, where the government says bird flu was found in tests of some of the estimated 30,000 chickens that died there in recent weeks. As a result, hundreds of thousands of birds were killed in Navapur as a precaution against the disease spreading, including all chickens within a six-mile radius. "Not one chicken is left," said Bhushan Gagrani, an official in the state of Maharashtra, where the outbreak was located.
A federal health official, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter, said the government is considering a ban on retail sales of a generic bird flu drug, fearing the disease could develop resistance if taken by people who are not infected by the H5N1 strain.
Two Indian pharmaceutical companies - Cipla Ltd. and Hetero Drugs Ltd. - are currently making generic copies of Tamiflu, a patented drug from Swiss drug maker Roche that is believed to be effective in treating symptoms of bird flu in humans.
However, other government officials tried hard to reassure people that properly cooked chicken and eggs were safe. Top health officials ate chicken at a news conference in New Delhi, but chicken sales have been dropping across the country, with chicken and eggs being removed from many menus, including on the railways and – reportedly – in Parliament.