Bird flu restrictions relaxed

Swedish hens, ducks and geese will soon be allowed outside, after the government relaxed restrictions intended to stop the spread of H5N1 bird flu.

But the Swedish Board of Agriculture said that food and water must still be kept under shelter.

The rules will not be relaxed in three small areas, all around Stockholm, in which sick birds have been found.

The National Veterinary Institute (SVA) said that most migratory birds have now passed Sweden. It also said that the virus had not been found in birds migrating from the south. The risk of infection was judged to be minimal.

Some 615 wild birds carrying the virus have been found across the EU. They all came from the east and were waterfowl, escaping from a cold front in Russia and Central Asia at the beginning of the year.

It is now believed that the presence of the flu in poultry in a number of African countries was not due to infection from migratory birds, but was spread by illegally imported Chinese chickens.