Ivan Rozhdestvensky, Deputy Director of the Russian Agriculture Ministry's Veterinary Medicine Department:
The Russian veterinary service has no reliable information that can prove that the 'bird' flu virus is lethal for humans, even though the World Health Organisation (WHO) claims this is the case.
Many people die all over the world every day, for many different reasons. Even if the bird flu virus is detected in a dead person's blood, it only means that it circulated in that person's blood, i.e. he or she was infected. However, it is hard to say this particular infection caused death.
It has been established that the virus causes conjunctivitis and severe respiratory symptoms in humans. In this sense, it is undoubtedly dangerous. However, it is very difficult to estimate the lethal risk of 'bird' flu today.
Despite the different views on this issue, people should in any case be protected against contacts with infected birds. The mass slaughter of poultry in China helps localise infection and prevent it from spreading, which is both effective and advisable.
The Russian State Veterinary Service is taking all the necessary measures, both at the borders and throughout the Russian Federation, to protect the country's population from the virus. The measures include restricted imports of poultry products and live birds from South-East Asia, stricter border controls and hygiene regulations at poultry farms, and shooting birds of prey. Strict rules have been also imposed on hand luggage checks, during which all poultry products have to be confiscated and destroyed.
The Russian veterinary service believes that the measures adopted by the Dutch government to prevent a 'bird' flu outbreak are entirely adequate. They include additional luggage control checks, and the obligatory decontamination of footwear at Schiphol international airport.
Lyudmila Lyalina, epidemiological laboratory head at the Pasteur Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology attached to the Russian Health Ministry, member of the International Association of Pasteur Institutes since 1993:
Experts at St Petersburg's Veterinary Academy are sceptical about the recent WHO data on 9 deaths allegedly caused by 'bird' flu.
They doubt WHO claims that two members of a Vietnamese family that worked in the poultry sphere died after contracting the virus. The WHO information fails to clarify the reasons for the lethal outcomes, but simply states facts. A thorough epidemiological investigation would require all the circumstances to be considered.
However, Russia has already banned imports of exotic birds for pets. Russian epidemiologists prefer to err on the side of caution, which is only correct. When there are alarming signs, they think it better to take preventive measures, rather than to wait for an outbreak. Russia's epidemiological and veterinary control services are already working in this area. The St Petersburg Flu Institute is conducting research into discovering how 'bird' flu symptoms can be differentiated from other acute respiratory diseases. It is also working on a 'bird' flu vaccine.
St Petersburg boasts a brilliant school of medical microbiology. Its Pasteur Institute had developed 10 important vaccines by 1929, including against typhoid, cholera, smallpox, diphtheria, colibacillosis, scarlet fever, gonococcus, staphylococcus, postnatal infections and influenza. Therefore, it is quite possible that Russian scientists will develop the vaccine that will save humanity from the new virus.