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    Moscow zoo vet attributes bird flu spread to illegal poultry trade

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    MOSCOW, October 27 (RIA Novosti, Maria Gusarova) - The Moscow Zoo's Chief Veterinarian said Thursday that the cause of the bird flu outbreak is the unmonitored transit of domestic birds, not wild bird migration.

    "No one has proved anywhere that the carriers of avian flu are wild birds...However, the black market for trading animals provides all the conditions for the unmonitored transit of un-examined birds," Valentin Kozlitin said.

    Kozlitin highlighted Russia's parrot trade, saying that 99% of these birds are sold illegally.

    "In a live bird, the disease spreads at lightning speed. The bird dies within two days, and it physically cannot spread the disease very far.

    "Shooting birds is not effective," he said. Shooting can result in the deaths of rare breeds, since this is being done in a haphazard and uncontrolled way, in which birds are killed en masse.

    Internationally, 145 million wild birds have already been destroyed. In all 1 billion birds, including chickens and ducks, have been culled.

    Kozlitin said the most effective means of protection against bird flu is quarantine.

    "We have the possibility of monitoring the state of health of our birds and are doing so continually," he said.

    In anticipation of an avian flu epidemic among the human population, Russia plans to reserve 300,000 hospital beds by spring, International Confederation of Consumer Societies Chairman Dmitry Yanin said Thursday at a press conference.

    This follows a proposal from the Federal Service for the Oversight of Consumer Protection and Welfare.

    "The government is preparing for the worst, although the danger of a bird flu epidemic is being severely exaggerated," he said.

    There have been 110 cases of human infection from the virus around the world, of which, 55 people have died. All of these people came in direct contact with infected birds and were not infected by bird meat, Yanin said.

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