Bird Flu False Alarm on German Farm Final Test Shows

First Posted: Feb 16, 2013 02:07 PM EST

Identifying specific flu viruses is technically difficult and can only be done in highly advanced laboratories - this explains today's false alarm for a--correctly described as suspected--case of H5N1 bird flu that had been discovered during initial tests on a poultry farm in the eastern state of Germany, Brandenburg. The initial finding, thanks to routine tests by the farm owner, was actually confirmed by a certified state laboratory, but then turned out negative after all in the third and final testing, the state agriculture ministry said on Saturday.

This result comes too late for all of the roughly 14,000 ducks at the German farm, which have already been slaughtered as a precautionary measure immediately by a team of officials in biohazard suits.

Friday's announcement by the state laboratory that the H5N1 virus was detected at a farm near Seelow, east of Berlin was the first such finding in Germany in more than three years.

On Saturday, local council spokesman Tobias Seyfarth told news agency dpa that all poultry within a one-kilometer (half-mile) radius of the facility will be kept under observation for the next 21 days, with owners told to keep their birds where they are and report any symptoms.

The H5N1 virus can be transmitted from birds to bird, it can sometimes spread from poultry to humans, but never from humans to humans. According to the World Health Organization, bird flu has killed 367 people worldwide since surfacing in 2003.

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