Bird flu may spread to Siberia next spring - epidemiologists

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NOVOSIBIRSK, October 28 (RIA Novosti, Yana Ryabinskaya) - Siberia may become the site of an avian influenza outbreak next spring, the region's chief epidemiologist said Friday.

"Our forecasts for this autumn have come true - we predicted the outbreak of the virus in European [Russia]. And next year we expect the bird flu virus to become endemic to the Siberian region," Valery Mikheyev told reporters.

He said the H5N1 influenza would spread to Siberia via migratory birds traveling eastward and that the advent of this flue strain was not a question of if, but when.

"How it spreads we know already - birds' migration routes and their nesting sites. And where there is contact between wild fowl and domestic poultry, the situation will be tense," he said.

Epidemiological, veterinary and agricultural agencies should provide constant monitoring to detect the disease in wild fowl coming to the region in the spring, the official said.

The doctor also cautioned against complacency elsewhere in Russia.

"It would be premature in the least to say that bird flu will not affect other regions," he said.

Through hunters' negligence, poultry in several rural areas of Siberia recently contracted bird flu via wild ducks, he said.

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