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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

EU Prepares for Spread of Bird Flu

BRUSSELS -- The bird flu virus found in Turkish poultry was the H5N1 strain that scientists worry might mutate into a human virus and spark a pandemic, the European Union said Thursday.

"We have received now confirmation that the virus found in Turkey is an avian flu H5N1 virus," said EU Health Commissioner Markos Kyprianou. "There is a direct relationship with viruses found in Russia, Mongolia and China."

The EU also said samples from birds in Romania came back positive for bird flu, and scientists have narrowed the strain to an H5 type virus. Veterinary experts were meeting Thursday to try to determine the exact strain in Romania.

Kyprianou said the European Commission was proposing to set aside 1 billion euros ($1.2 billion) to help make and distribute anti-virals and vaccines "in case of a pandemic."

He advised EU countries to administer the standard flu vaccine to vulnerable populations: people over age 65, young children and those with weakened immune systems or chronic respiratory conditions and also those living near the outbreak sites.

Kyprianou urged EU nations to stockpile antivirus drugs, saying: "It's the first line of defense."

EU health ministers were to hold urgent talks in Britain next week. Kyprianou said they would discuss management of anti-viral stockpiles and other precautions to stop the spread of the virus into the EU.