ASTANA (Reuters) - A bird flu outbreak in seven northern Kazakh villages is dangerous to humans and threatening the west of the sprawling country, the Agriculture Ministry said on Tuesday.
"The H5N1 strain has been detected in all seven villages (where an outbreak was reported)," Asylbek Kozhumratov, director of the ministry's Veterinary Department, told reporters.
"The western region is now in the risk zone because (migratory) birds are starting to fly to the Caspian Sea and Urals-Caspian basin," he said.
The outbreak, which spread from Siberia in neighbouring Russia, has prompted fears in Europe that the disease might spread there and unleash an influenza pandemic.
Although the H5N1 strain has killed more than 50 people in Asia since 2003, no-one has caught it in Russia or Kazakhstan.
Kozhumratov said no new cases had been reported since Aug. 15 in Kazakhstan, but that authorities would keep quarantines and other measures against bird flu in place until the end of October as a precaution.
Since its discovery on a farm in Siberia in mid-July, bird flu has spread to other areas in Russia. More than 130,000 birds have been culled to try to prevent further contagion.
Another 11,715 birds died of the virus, the Russian Emergencies Ministry said in a report on Tuesday.
In Kazakhstan, at least 9,000 birds have died or been destroyed since the outbreak started in the north of the Central Asian state last month.
A senior veterinary official in Russia on Monday urged more international cooperation in fighting avian influenza.
In Europe, the Netherlands, spooked by the Russian and Kazakh outbreaks, has ordered all poultry indoors while German officials have said they are ready to order flocks to be kept in pens to prevent contact with migrating wild birds.
The European Commission said on Monday it did not yet see a need for more steps to stop the virus entering the 25-nation European Union.
On Tuesday, the French Agriculture Ministry said there was a limited risk of European contamination with bird flu, but urged poultry producers to be on their guard for any sign of illness among their flocks.
Meanwhile, Hungary said on Tuesday it will start human trials of a bird flu vaccine as soon as the country's pharmaceutical ethics committee has given its approval. About 150 people will take part in the initial trial.
(Additional reporting by Aleksandras Budrys in Moscow and Eszter Kalocsai and David Chance in Budapest)
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