Fight against bird flu crosses borders

A cordoned-off area of Lake Constance in canton Thurgau Keystone

All three countries surrounding Lake Constance have agreed on coordinated measures to prevent the spread of bird flu including a lake surveillance zone.

This content was published on March 9, 2006 - 22:02

The International Lake Constance Conference took place on the same day that the tenth case of bird flu in Switzerland was reported.

Six Swiss cantons attended the conference, which took place in Singen in southern Germany. They were joined by one Austrian and two German states and the principality of Liechtenstein.

So far there have been 19 cases of bird flu reported in the Lake Constance region – nine on Swiss shores.

Delegates discussed long-term measures in the fight against bird flu, including standardising the protection and surveillance of areas around the lake where the H5N1 virus has been confirmed.

It was also decided that regular meetings would take place at a ministerial level – those ministers concerned would meet again in the second half of April.

Joint effort

Dorothy Fierz, president of the conference and a member of the Zurich cantonal government, said despite differing legal positions the countries had agreed on the same strategies, measures and methods of implementation.

The parties committed themselves to the systematic collecting of dead birds and in those areas where birds are banned from being kept outdoors, poultry shows and markets are also forbidden.

The Swiss National Alarm Centre website will act as a platform for cross-border information concerning Lake Constance and will be accessible to all authorities concerned.

"We don't want to scare people – we want citizens to be our partners," said Fierz, appealing for people to observe the measures.

The only area where the countries differ is the treatment of cats. Whereas German cats must be locked up, those in Switzerland are still free to prowl.

So far three domestic cats in Germany have been found with the highly pathogenic H5N1 strain of the disease.

Little grebe

On Thursday another bird died from H5N1 in Switzerland. The little grebe was found in canton Schaffhausen on the German border and pushes the number of wild birds to have died from bird flu in Switzerland into double figures. Samples have been sent to Britain for testing.

On Thursday German authorities said they had identified a beech marten, a weasel-like creature, infected with H5N1. It is the second species of mammal, after cats, to be found with the virus in the country.

The World Health Organisation has said the spreading of the virus to a cat probably does not increase the risk to humans but some experts have said cat-to-human transmission cannot be ruled out.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

The tally of wild birds found dead with the H5N1 virus is now confirmed at ten: one from Geneva and nine from northern Switzerland in the area around Lake Constance.

So far no domestic fowl in Switzerland have tested positive for the disease. Last month the government re-introduced an outdoor ban on poultry in an effort to prevent the disease from spreading.

Protection and observation zones have been set up around areas affected by bird flu.

The World Health Organization says 174 people globally are confirmed to have caught bird flu and 94 of them have died.

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Key facts

The International Lake Constance Conference took place in Singen, southern Germany, and was attended by:
Swiss cantons Zurich, Thurgau, Schaffhausen, St Gallen, Appenzell Inner Rhodes and Appenzell Outer Rhodes
German states Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg
Austrian state Vorarlberg
Liechtenstein.

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