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    Bird flu may spread to southern Russia - physician

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    MOSCOW, August 15 (RIA Novosti) - Bird flu may spread to the Astrakhan, Rostov and Volgograd regions, Stavropol and Krasnodar territories in southern Russia this fall, the country's chief sanitary doctor said Monday.

    "An analysis of bird migration routes has shown that the contagious A (H5N1) virus may spread from Western Siberia to the Caspian and Black Sea areas this fall," Gennady Onishchenko said in a letter to the heads of regional departments of the Federal Service for the Oversight of Consumer Protection and Welfare. "Some birds nesting in the affected regions (the Novosibirsk region and Altai territory) migrate to the above-mentioned areas for winter or stop there on their way to Africa or Europe."

    Bird migration routes run through Azerbaijan, Iran, Iraq, Georgia, Ukraine and Mediterranean countries, where bird flu outbreaks are also possible, he added.

    "The 2006 spring migration may result in a spread of the A (H5N1) contagious virus across European Russia because birds migrating from European Russia and Siberia have common winter nesting areas," Onishchenko said.

    According to the World Health Organization, 112 people contracted bird flu between December 2003 and August 2005 and 57 of them died.

    He also said that the A (H5N1) virus had mutated and could infect people with fatal results.

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