Stockholm birds ‘had H5 strain’

Two wild swans found in central Stockholm last week died of the highly pathogenic strain of H5 bird flu, Swedish authorities said Tuesday.

“Samples from the dead birds will be sent to the EU laboratory” in Weybridge, Britain to determine whether the birds died of the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu that can kill humans, Håkan Henrikson, spokesman for the Swedish Board of Agriculture, told AFP.

“Results of these tests are expected by Monday next week,” Henrikson said.

The H5N1 strain, in its most aggressive form, has killed more than 100 people worldwide.

Last week, Sweden confirmed that two wild ducks found dead on the country’s southeastern coast in late February were infected with the H5N1 strain.

Since then Sweden’s National Veterinary Institute has confirmed 38 cases of H5 subtype bird flu in Sweden, but so far only the two ducks have been confirmed carriers of the H5N1 strain.

Security measures have already been implemented in Stockholm to prevent the spread of the disease, Henrikson said.

In any case where the highly pathogenic H5 strain is found, special protection and monitoring zones are immediately set up in three and 10 kilometer (six mile) radii.

Dead birds are also handled by the authorities.

Henrikson said that Stockholm residents would be unaffected by the discovery, and told AFP that life would continue without “any restrictions.”

Tests carried out by the veterinary agency on seven other dead birds found in the Stockholm area last week proved negative for H5 bird flu.

Swedish zoos and animal parks have since last week been allowed to vaccinate their birds, in particular endangered and rare species involved in breeding programmes.

Henrikson reiterated that the risk of H5N1 infecting humans was very small.