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    Moscow Region health authorities dismissed Wednesday rumors of the first human avian flu case in the wake of an outbreak that hit poultry farms in the region last week.

    (Adds paragraphs 7-8 with new outbreak developments)

    MOSCOW, February 21 (RIA Novosti) - Moscow Region health authorities dismissed Wednesday rumors of the first human avian flu case in the wake of an outbreak that hit poultry farms in the region last week.

    Several Internet sources reported Tuesday that a resident of Ramenskoye, near the Russian capital, who owned poultry contaminated with the deadly bird flu virus had been hospitalized with a high temperature.

    "He [the resident of the Ramenskoye district] has been admitted to the infectious diseases ward at a local hospital, but his diagnosis is rhinitis, or simply a common cold," a local health official said.

    She said the illness had probably been caused by excessive stress related to the bird flu outbreak, and that all lab tests showed the patient was not contaminated with the H5N1 virus.

    Cases of avian flu were registered last Saturday in various districts in the Moscow Region, all of which were traced to a single market in southwest Moscow. The Russian agricultural watchdog confirmed Monday that the outbreak involved the deadly strain of the bird flu virus.

    The Emergency Situations Ministry said 150 dead birds were found at private farms in the Domodedovo, the Odintsovo, the Podolsk, the Naro-Fominsk, and the Taldom districts last week, and another 75 were discovered in the Ramenskoye district this week, but that no cases of humans infected with the virus have been registered so far.

    In addition, the Russian veterinary watchdog reported Wednesday that 70 dead fowl had been found at two poultry farms in the Republic of Adygea, bordering on the southern Krasnodar Region, where the most recent bird flu outbreak occurred in mid-January.

    Tissue samples taken from the dead birds have been sent to a special veterinary lab in Moscow to establish whether they were contaminated with the H5N1 virus, the Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Supervision said.

    According to the World Health Organization, the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu has claimed 167 human lives globally since it first appeared in Asia in 2003. It has since spread worldwide, and scientists fear the virus could mutate into a form transmissible between humans, sparking a global pandemic.

    Russia recorded its first cases of avian flu in August 2005, but until now outbreaks have occurred only in southern provinces and in Siberia.

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