ASTANA (Reuters) - An outbreak of bird flu in Kazakhstan has been confirmed to be the deadly H5N1 strain of the virus that is dangerous to humans, Kazakhstan's agriculture ministry said on Wednesday.
The ministry, which first reported an outbreak of avian influenza on Aug. 4, added that a quarantine was in place in the affected area near the village of Golubovka in northern Kazakhstan's Pavlodar region.
The region lies across the Russian border from an area where Russian officials earlier reported an outbreak of H5N1 bird flu, a strain that has killed more than 50 people in Asia since 2003.
The Kazakh and Russian outbreaks, which have so far only killed wildfowl and poultry, had sparked fears the disease could spread to humans on the Eurasian landmass and be spread further to Europe and possibly the United States by migrating birds.
But the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Tuesday it believed the Russian outbreak was subsiding and should disappear by late August.
The Kazakh farm ministry also sought to play down fears of a growing problem. Kazakhstan, a sprawling ex-Soviet state in Central Asia, is the size of western Europe but has a population of just 15 million people.
NO NEW OUTBREAKS REPORTED
"As of Aug. 9 there have been no reports of new outbreaks of the disease among poultry or wildfowl in the republic," it said.
Veterinary officials were testing wildfowl in the many lakes and reservoirs near the village of Golubovka, the ministry said, but had found no new cases.
A quarantine was also in place at a second village, Vinogradovka, where bird flu was earlier reported and 345 poultry birds had been culled, it said.
The European Union said on Saturday it would ban imports of chicken and other poultry from Russia and Kazakhstan to help prevent the spread of the disease -- a symbolic measure as there is no poultry trade between them and the EU.
"The epizootic situation in (Kazakhstan's) poultry farms is safe," the ministry said.
There are no known cases of H5N1 bird flu passing from one human to another, but some health officials fear that the virus could mutate and create a pandemic to rival the 40 million people killed by Spanish flu at the end of World War One.
The WHO said measures had been taken to localise the Russian outbreak and noted that no one had been infected so far. Russia is also to test and introduce a new type of vaccine to prevent humans getting the virus.
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