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Although more than 150 people have contracted the H5N1 virus, experts point out that cross-infection to humans is still relatively rare, and usually occurs where people have been in close contact with infected birds. Many scientists fear it may be carried by migrating birds to Europe and Africa but say it is hard to prove a direct link. But as H5N1 spreads west from its original hotspot of south-east Asia, there is mounting concern that it may combine with a human strain to produce a mutation that is more dangerous and difficult to combat.
Link to the BBC on bird flu: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/in_depth/world/2005/bird_flu/default.stm
The deadly H5N1 bird flu virus has been confirmed in swans in Austria. Austria's health authorities said the cases in two dead wild swans were the first to be found in the country. The H5N1 strain, which can be deadly to humans, was also confirmed on Saturday in neighbouring Italy, as well as in Greece and Bulgaria. The swans were among 21 dead wild fowl examined in Austria. They were found at Mellach, near Graz, where restrictions on poultry are now in effect. The authorities have set up a protection zone within a three-kilometre (two-mile) radius of Mellach and a 10km surveillance zone beyond that. The H5 bird flu virus, which kills only birds, has also been found in Slovenia, on Austria's southern border. Samples from the dead Austrian swans have been sent to an EU lab in Weybridge, England. Farmers inside the protection zone are now prohibited from trading in poultry, chicken or eggs. Poultry farms in the surveillance zone have to get permission to do so, Austrian media report. Domestic fowl have to be kept indoors in designated high-risk areas along Austria's waterways.
The virus can infect humans in close contact with birds. There is still no evidence that it can be passed from human to human. The H5N1 strain of bird flu has killed at least 90 people since early 2003, mostly in South-East Asia.
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