With avian influenza reaching Russia, the media has been talking up the inevitability of its reaching the EU. This has been linked with the suggestion that the virus will transmute into a form that will allow it to spread from human to human, creating a pandemic on the scale of the devastating influenz outbreak at the end of the First World War (which killed my grandmother while she was still a relatively young woman).
However, the European Commission has attempted to calm any incipient panic, arguing that the risk of bird 'flu reaching Europe via migratory birds is negligible. On the question of transmission to humans, a spokesman commebted, 'We are very far from a risk to humans from migrating birds.'
Veterinary experts concluded at a meeting in Brussels that the immediate risk of the disease spreading to the EU was probably 'remote' or 'low' depending on the area. There was no call to impose a general veto on keeping poulrtry outdoors, a measure imposed by the Dutch last week which would pose problems for free range egg producers.
However, the EU has suggested that member states step up surveillance of wild birds and their migratory movements as well as keeping a close eye on domestic birds.