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Reports of the avian flu on the eastern side of the Ural Mountains (which separate Europe from Asia) have raised concern, although the outbreak has not been confirmed to be the deadly H5N1 strain.
Roads were cordoned off in parts of Siberia, as hundreds of chickens were slaughtered in an attempt to control the spread of the virus.
However, Gennadi Onishchenko, Russia’s top state epidemiologist, predicted that the virus would soon spread to Russia’s agriculture regions of Krasnodar, Stavropol and Rostov in the south; and then to the Middle East and the Mediterranean: “An analysis of bird migration routes has shown that in autumn 2005 the H5N1 virus may be spread from Western Siberia to the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea. Apart from Russia’s south, migrating birds may spread the virus to nearby countries [Azerbaijan, Iran, Iraq, Georgia, Ukraine, and Mediterranean countries] because bird migration routes from Siberia also go through those regions in autumn.”
Officials are concerned that the H5N1 strain could mutate into a form that is easily transmissible between humans, thus creating a scenario that may be similar to the 1918-19 Spanish flu, in which 20-40 million people died.
Source: The Times (London)