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Russian health experts say global bird flu threat is growing

MOSCOW, March 5 (RIA Novosti) - Russian health officials warned Wednesday that the threat from the deadly bird flu virus is growing as countries are failing to implement effective disease control measures to deal with the crisis.

"The threat is growing as the measures taken, particularly in Indonesia and Egypt, are ineffective and the virus is constantly present in wild birds and circulates in domestic birds...that leads to the development of the virus," said Nikolai Vlasov, the head of Russia's agricultural watchdog, Rosselkhoznadzor.

The official however stressed that "Russia has no reason to panic," adding that the country has taken all the necessary measures needed to cope with bird flu.

Although no cases of human-to-human transmission of H5N1 have been reported, scientists fear the virus could mutate into a strain that could pass easily between people, causing a global pandemic.

On a more pessimistic note, the health official said that if a human strain of bird flu emerged in Indonesia, then Russia would have "months to respond."

"If [the mutant virus] surfaces in Russia we will only have a matter of days," Vlasov said.

According to the World Health Organization, avian influenza has so far killed 230 people out of 364 confirmed cases worldwide.

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