European Union Member States have endorsed three European Commission decisions aimed at further reducing the threat of avian influenza, within the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (SCFCAH).

The decisions relate to further biosecurity measures for domestic flocks, preventive vaccination of zoo birds and an extension of the Russian import ban.

The committee voted in favour of a draft commission decision to restrict keeping poultry outdoor in areas of particular risk of avian influenza. The committee also agreed on an immediate, EU-wide ban on the collection of birds on markets, shows, exhibitions and cultural events, unless specifically authorised by Member State authorities on the basis of a positive risk assessment.

Following confirmation from Russia yesterday of an outbreak of H5N1 avian influenza in Tula (south of Moscow), the committee backed a draft commission decision to ban all imports of live pet birds and unprocessed feathers from the European part of Russia. The only areas to which the ban will not apply are Kaliningrad and some regions on the border of Finland. The decision extends the embargo on imports from the Russian regions east of the Ural Mountains, which has been in place since 8 September. No ban is necessary for eggs, poultry meat or meat products, as there is no trade between Russia and the EU in these products.

The committee also stated that it was following closely the situation of a suspicion of avian influenza in Greece and noted that so far the presence of the virus has not been confirmed. Further tests on samples are currently being carried out.