Finland confirms first cases of H5N8 bird flu

HELSINKI, Jan. 22 (Xinhua) -- The first ever cases of the easily transmittable bird flu type H5N8 have been detected in Finland, the Finnish Food Authority confirmed on Friday to national broadcaster Yle.

The Authority said all poultry and all domestic birds in Finland should now be kept inside and away from contact with wild animals.

Fears arose last weekend in the country as many dead pheasants were found in the forests around a farm that produces pheasants for hunting purposes. The farm, located in Janakkala, north of the capital Helsinki, sets annually some 20,000 pheasants free to the forests for the winter hunting season. It has now started killing the birds out in the forests, according to Yle.

Sirpa Kiviruusu, head of Animal Health and Medication Unit at the Finnish Food Authority, described the situation as dangerous to the Finnish poultry industry. She said the Authority considers setting "exclusion zones" where poultry and poultry products cannot be transported from.

If the ailment spreads, the financial impact on the poultry industry will be extensive, said Kiviruusu who suspected the H5N8 probably had spread to other parts of the country, but has not been detected yet.

H5N8 is a subtype of the Influenza A virus (sometimes called bird flu virus). While H5N8 presents only a low risk to humans, it is highly lethal to wild birds and poultry.

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