Roosters no longer crow in the Romanian Danube delta village of Ceamurlia de Jos, where tens of thousands of birds have been culled on small poultry farms to contain an outbreak of deadly bird flu.
CEAMURLIA DE JOS, Romania Roosters no longer crow in the Romanian Danube delta village of Ceamurlia de Jos, where tens of thousands of birds have been culled on small poultry farms to contain an outbreak of deadly bird flu.
The village of 1,300, on the shore of a lake where migrating wild birds rest on their way to Africa, has been sealed off from the outside world while veterinary surgeons in white masks go from house to house gassing birds and burning the carcasses.
"This doesn't even seem to be my village any more, this morning I didn't hear a single rooster crow," said Petre Nicolae, 56, whose 100 domestic birds were among 18,000 killed so far in the village where the virus was found last week.
A British lab detected the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu on Saturday in samples from three ducks from Ceamurlia, confirming the deadly virus had reached mainland Europe. Turkey reported an outbreak of the same strain earlier this week.
Experts fear H5N1, which has killed more than 60 people and caused the death of millions of birds in Asia since 2003, could mutate into a virus that spreads easily among humans, creating a pandemic that might kill millions.
Reuters reporters in the delta said riot police and special forces have been deployed to isolate Ceamurlia de Jos and three other nearby villages to prevent the disease from spreading.
"It's closed for everybody," said a police officer manning a checkpoint where a red fire engine blocked the only asphalt road to Ceamurlia. Villagers can leave only in an emergency or to refuel at a nearby petrol station. All vehicles have to pass through a disinfection area.
Government officials have sent food supplies to Ceamurlia de Jos, which lies in an area that relies heavily on poultry.
Veterinarians plan to cull 45,000 domestic birds in the delta, Europe's largest wetlands and a major resting place for birds migrating from Russia, Scandinavia and Poland to North Africa for the winter.
Earlier this week, officials isolated the bird flu virus in a hen and a swan in Maliuc, 40 km (25 miles) north of Ceamurlia de Jos, and found bird flu antibodies in 15 dead swans nearby.
Medical teams have vaccinated delta villagers against regular flu to boost their immunity. Pharmacies across the country have run out of the vaccine, and media reported that up to two million doses had been sold in the past few days.
Romania has not reported any cases of bird flu in humans. It received about 45,000 doses of Tamiflu, an antiviral drug, and over 13,000 doses have already been sent to Ceamurlia de Jos.
(Additional reporting by Antonia Oprita, Marius Zaharia, Aurora Martiniuc and Mihai Barbu in Bucharest)