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    No human bird flu cases in Russia - minister

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    MOSCOW, January 23 (RIA Novosti) - No human case of bird flu has been diagnosed in Russia, the Russian health minister said Monday.

    "There have been no bird flu cases among people in Russia registered as of yet," Mikhail Zurabov said at a meeting with President Vladimir Putin.

    Putin said it was necessary to put all sanitary and epidemiological services on alert in preparation for Spring, when experts predict bird flu could again become problematic.

    ""We need to prepare for the spring so that all services would be completely ready to deal with bird migration from the south," Putin said.

    Zurabov said quarantine control had been enhanced on Russian border checkpoints for people coming to Russia from Turkey, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan due to the alarming situation with bird flu in those countries.

    The minister said none of the about 3,400 people returning to Russia from the Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia were diagnosed with bird flu, since many of them traveled to Mecca via Turkey where at least four people have died from the H5N1 strain of the virus.

    A decision was made to ensure that all pilgrims return to Russia direct by plane. In previous years, some had returned to Russia via Turkey.

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