The Health Protection Surveillance Centre is monitoring the situation regarding Avian Influenza

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On the 7th of July 2006, the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture announced that the National Reference Laboratory for Avian influenza had confirmed the presence of a highly pathogenic avian influenza virus H5N1 in a sample from a dead wild duck (Great Crested Grebe - Podiceps cristatus) found in a lake in Vitoria in the Basque Country. Samples will be sent to the EU Community Reference Laboratory for avian influenza in Weybridge for further tests.

No other cases in birds have been detected so far in Spain and there are no other suspicious cases among wild flocks. The Spanish Ministry of agriculture is implementing measures in accordance with Commission Decision 2006/115/EC including establishing a 3 km protection zone and a 10 km surveillance zone. In this area there are no commercial farms and all the back yard poultry is being inspected.

Spain is the 14th EU Member State to report a case of highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 in wild birds. The other countries are Greece, Italy, Slovenia, Hungary, Austria, Germany, France, Slovakia, Sweden, Poland, Denmark, Czech Republic and the UK. Avian influenza H5N1 was confirmed in poultry in five EU Member States: France, Sweden, Germany, Denmark and Hungary.

H5N1 avian influenza remains predominantly a disease of birds. A small number of human cases have been reported in South East Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe, all of which have been associated with close contact with dead or dying poultry. In all human cases to date there has been no evidence of efficient human-to-human transmission. Human infections remain a rare event.

The advice from the Department of Agriculture and Food in Ireland is not to handle dead wild birds unless necessary. For further information please consult the Department of Agriculture and Food website. For queries relating to dead birds please contact the Department of Agriculture and Food on the Avian Influenza Hotline: 1890 252 283.

At present, recommendations on travel, personal protection and food safety remain unchanged.  Current travel advice is available here . The WHO level of pandemic alert remains unchanged at phase 3. This is defined as a virus new to humans that is causing infections, but does not spread easily from one person to another. The latest updates from the WHO are available on the WHO website.

Further information on avian influenza is also available on the HPSC website.