The FINANCIAL -- Armenia and Ukraine have banned Russian poultry imports following a bird flu outbreak at a poultry farm in the Rostov Region, south Russia, local officials said on December 17, according to RIA Novosti.
Birds at the farm started dying on November 29, and a preliminary analysis showed traces of the lethal H5N1 virus, which has killed a total of 207 people across the globe since it was first reported in Asia in 2003.
A total of 276,000 birds have already been culled at the poultry farm, and the remaining 224,000 are to be slaughtered in the near future. Another case of bird flu has also been registered in an area neighboring the infected farm, an emergencies ministry spokesman said.
As a result of the latest outbreak, Ukrainian authorities have "temporarily suspended" the import of Russia poultry, and an Armenian customs official said that "Armenia does not import poultry from Russia. Nevertheless, as a precautionary measure, its import into Armenia has been banned."
The current outbreak is the third in Russia this year. The Krasnodar Territory, which is on the route taken by migrating birds in winter, was hit by the H5N1 strain in September, and over 200,000 birds were subsequently culled.
In February, dead poultry containing traces of the lethal virus were found in Moscow, in eight Moscow Region districts and a district in the Kaluga Region. All the cases were eventually traced to a single market in southwest Moscow.
Although no cases of the human-to-human transmission of avian influenza have been reported, scientists fear that the virus could eventually mutate into a strain easily passed on from person to person, causing a global flu pandemic.
In 1918, a flu pandemic killed over 20 million people worldwide.