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    Bird flu not confirmed in 3 districts near Moscow

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    Suspected outbreaks of bird flu in three Moscow regions have not been confirmed, the Russian agriculture watchdog said Wednesday.

    MOSCOW, February 21 (RIA Novosti) - Suspected outbreaks of bird flu in three Moscow regions have not been confirmed, the Russian agriculture watchdog said Wednesday.

    Laboratory tests established that the birds in the Kashira, Ramenskoye and Odintsovo Districts had died from other causes and not avian flu.

    Cases of avian flu were registered last Saturday in the Odintsovo, Domodedovo, Podolsk, Naro-Fominsk and Taldom Districts, all of which were traced to a single market in southwest Moscow.

    No cases of humans infected with the virus have been registered so far.

    Moscow's veterinary and food safety experts have urged local residents to avoid buying poultry at unauthorized locations, and prosecutors have launched a probe into "veterinary violations."

    In addition, the Russian veterinary watchdog reported earlier on Wednesday that the H5N1 virus 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.

    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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