Foreign Ministry warns of serious threat to Russia from bird flu
MOSCOW, March 29 (RIA Novosti, Irina Chumakova) - The Foreign Ministry warned Wednesday of a serious spread of bird flu throughout Russia, where more than 140 million birds have already been culled.
"No continent, no region and no country is protected from the spread of the virus, especially during massive long-distance flights of wild birds in spring," Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Yakovenko told RIA Novosti.
Yakovenko said some countries and the international community could combat a bird flu pandemic.
"Therefore, we should not give way to panic and apocalyptic moods," he said. "Experts are making different forecasts, including dramatic ones, specifically, if the H5N1 strain mutates and is contracted by humans."
Yakovenko said the International Monetary Fund put losses from a possible bird flu pandemic caused by a decrease in consumer demand and postponed investment decisions at 2% of global GDP or $800 billion.
More than 200 people have already contracted bird flu worldwide, and over 100 have died. No cases of human bird flu have been reported in Russia.
Yakovenko said Russia could ban poultry imports from several countries as a measure to combat bird flu. He said Russia was taking extra security measures on its borders and maintained permanent contact with the World Health Organization, Food and Agriculture of the United Nations, the World Bank, and other organizations.
Bird flu will be on the agenda of the G8's July summit in St. Petersburg, Yakovenko said. Russia currently holds the rotating presidency of the group of leading industrialized nations.
Yakovenko said Russia would help the CIS, a loose union of the former Soviet republics, combat bird flu.
He said last year Russia had suggested to the CIS that monitoring systems be modernized, and that some countries, including Armenia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova and Tajikistan, had already backed this proposal.