Farming cooperatives and poultry smallholders are on high alert in eastern Bohemia after a second outbreak of bird flu was confirmed in the Orlicko region. Strict measures are now in effect in all villages within a five kilometer radius of the outbreak. The safety zone is off limits to both the public and press and the army has been called in to help with the culling and elimination of thousands of birds.
It has been a difficult week for the local residents. Last Thursday tests confirmed the presence of the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu at a poultry farm in the village of Tisova necessitating the slaughter of 6,000 turkeys and the poultry of all smallholders in the region. The villagers' main concern was that several of the village men had handled the dead birds without any protection before the lab results came through. All are now taking antibiotics and are under observation. The locals were clearly shaken by the developments.
Woman 1: "I am afraid, of course I am."
Woman 2: "Well, this kind of thing does shake you up a bit, you know."
Woman 3: "When they come to kill my poultry I will have to leave - I could not stay here and watch them do it - I would most likely faint."
Then, on Wednesday morning, came the news that the deadly virus has been detected at a poultry farm just four kilometers away. 28,000 chickens were culled there on Thursday morning as well as all poultry in the nearby village of Norin. Experts say they believe that the virus must have come from wild birds contaminating stacks of straw which was later used at the turkey farm. It could then have been transferred on the shoes of a worker or on a car tire between the two poultry farms which belong to the same farming cooperative. This theory is supported by the most recent developments - one dead swan, now being tested, and close to 250 dead seagulls found near the Rozkos man-made lake near Nachod. For the time being Czech vets are not planning on eliminating wild birds for fear that they would flee in a panic and could speed up the potential spread of the virus.
For the next thirty days people in the high risk zone will have to abide by strict security measures - but the authorities are doing their best to dispel people's fears, explaining that there is no great risk if all the necessary safety precautions are taken. Agriculture Minister Petr Gandalovic stressed on Wednesday that at this point there was no reason to fear an epidemic.
"The two farms belong to the same farming cooperative and are located within five kilometers of each other and we are doing everything to make sure it does not spread from this territory."
People have been warned to be extra cautious when preparing poultry -but despite the scare shops and supermarkets say there has been no impact on poultry sales for the present. After Great Britain and Hungary, the Czech Republic is the third EU state where the deadly virus has been detected at a poultry farm.
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