Romania sacks chief vet over bird flu outbreaks
17 May 2006 16:50:51 GMT
Source: Reuters

BUCHAREST, May 17 (Reuters) - Romania sacked its chief veterinarian on Wednesday, accusing him of negligence for failing to prevent a series of bird flu outbreaks in the past few days.

The deadly H5N1 virus was detected at the weekend at a chicken farm 170 km (106 miles) north of Bucharest and in several Transylvanian villages a month after the strain was reported to have been eradicated in the Black Sea state.

"Last night I signed the dismissal, not only of the chief veterinarian, but also of his deputy, because it looks to me that they have proved criminal negligence," a government statement quoted Prime Minister Calin Tariceanu as saying.

Romania, which must show the European Union by October that it can deal with food safety issues if it wants to join the bloc in 2007, has culled nearly half of million fowl and put an end to about 60 outbreaks of bird flu since the first case was detected in the Danube delta in October.

Authorities said that, in the latest outbreaks, the virus spread from one farm after it sold live chickens without having health or veterinary certificates.

Suspected cases occurred in 14 villages in nearby counties and authorities have said they may cull about 1 million domestic birds to prevent the disease spreading to populated areas.

On Wednesday, prosecutors also issued warrants for the arrest of two owners of farms in Codlea, north of Bucharest. Another seven people were being investigated for allegedly spreading the virus.

An unspecified quantity of meat destined for distribution to supermarkets across the country was seized by health authorities and tonnes of chicken meat were withdrawn from the market.

The H5N1 strain has killed 115 people worldwide since 2003, according to the World Health Organisation.