Japan, Poland, Singapore, Malaysia and South Korea have banned US poultry imports on the recent bird flu scare in Delaware, but the EU played down the likelihood of a European Union ban.

EU Health Commissioner today [Tuesday] told the European Parliament in Strasbourg: “It is believed but not yet confirmed that this [US] virus is a low pathogenic virus and therefore would not require the same degree of response as for the Asian avian influenza from Thailand.”

The United States has told the World Health Organisation that the Delaware outbreak is the H7 strain of bird flu, which is regarded as less virulent than the H5N1 strain that has killed at least 19 people in Asia.

Russia, the largest single foreign market for US poultry, yesterday moved to ban the import of most poultry products from Delaware, as has Hong Kong.

Experts on the ground in the US are confident that the outbreak will be contained as aggressive measures were taken quickly.

Delaware produces about 1.5 billion pounds of poultry a year, or about 4% of annual US chicken production.