Germans panic and dump their cats as Serbia joins the bird flu list

According to an animal welfare society in Germany, hundreds of cats are being left at animal shelters following the disclosure earlier in the week that a cat on the island of Ruegen had died from the deadly bird flu.

The charity says they are examining the abandoned cats for any sign of illness including bird flu.

German veterinary authorities confirmed last week that a dead cat found on the Baltic island of Ruegen had been infected with the highly pathogenic strain of H5N1 bird flu that can prove fatal to humans.

Back in 2004 the disease was responsible for the deaths of both domestic and wild cats, including dozens of tigers; however the cat found on the island was the first case of an infected mammal in the European Union.

It remains unclear however whether the EU's first feline case of bird flu is added cause for concern and that people could contract the virus from cats.

Serbia too has found it's first case of a strain of bird flu in a swan found dead in a Serbian region bordering Croatia and Hungary which has tested positive for the virus.

Afghanistan is also testing samples from dead chickens and has quarantined a number of chicken farms.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued draft guidelines allowing faster approval for seasonal and pandemic flu vaccines.

It is thought the movement of migratory birds has accelerated the spread of the virus to at least 15 countries since the beginning of February.

The H5N1 bird virus has now been found in Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, to date the virus has killed at least 94 people since late 2003, and more than 200 million birds worldwide have been culled or died as it spreads relentlessly across Asia, Africa and Europe.

The U.S. government has apparently ordered more flu treatments for its residents in the event of a pandemic.

The Bahamas, 100 kilometers (60 miles) from Florida, is also investigating whether dead birds found there carried the H5N1 virus.

Test results are expected to be ready in days.

The Bahamas is on the doorstep of the U.S.

However the good news is that chickens that died on a farm in China's Guangdong province were cleared of bird flu; they apparently died from a parasitic disease.

Meanwhile in Hong Kong authorities have ordered the culling of 6,000 birds on a farm near the city after as many there died of an illness last month.

A 12 year old boy has died in Indonesia from bird flu-like symptoms; his brother died a day earlier.

A woman in Iraq's Nasiriya province is also suspected to have died from the H5N1 virus, and the World Health Organization has confirmed that a 39-year-old Iraqi man who died on January 27 had bird flu.

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