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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

6th Case of Bird Flu Found Near Moscow

Authorities confirmed a new case of the deadly H5N1 strain of avian flu in the Moscow region Wednesday as environmental inspector Oleg Mitvol called for the source of the outbreak, the Sadovod pet market, to be closed down.

Cases of avian flu have been found in six locations in the Moscow region, and three more locations are under suspicion, said Alexei Alexeyenko, spokesman for the Federal Service for Veterinarian and Vegetation Sanitary Supervision.

Forty-three people who have had contact with the infected birds are now under medical observation, the agency said in a statement.

The outbreak of the deadly virus is the first to be recorded so close to the capital. No humans are known to have contracted the virus in Russia.

Nikolai Vlasov, head of the Federal Service for Veterinarian and Vegetation Sanitary Supervision, said all six cases had been linked to the pet market, located just outside Moscow's southwestern limits.

"We think that it arrived with the illegal transportation of exotic birds from Azerbaijan, Iran or the Krasnodar region," Vlasov said, Interfax reported.

Three Krasnodar villages saw an outbreak of bird flu in January. Five deaths in Azerbaijan have been linked to the virus.

Vlasov earlier this week suggested that birds migrating from Azerbaijan or Iran might have carried the virus to the Moscow region.

Another case of the H5N1 strain was confirmed Wednesday in the North Caucasus republic of Adygea, Interfax reported. Suspicious bird deaths also were reported in the Kaluga region, which is next to the Moscow region.

A total of 448 domestic fowl had been culled in the Moscow region to prevent the spread of the virus, the Agriculture Ministry said. Another 247 birds have died of the virus. In addition, nearly 2,000 birds have been culled at the pet market.

Mitvol, the deputy head of the Natural Resources Ministry's environmental agency, said an inspection of the Sadovod market had found violations of sanitary regulations and a lack of the proper documents to transport animals.

He said his agency had recommended to Mayor Yury Luzhkov that he break the city's lease with the market administration.

Meanwhile, State Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov claimed unidentified foreign agents were behind the outbreak. "It is a deliberate project that has been directed against the production [of chickens] and the sale of expensive vaccines, and it was not invented in Russia," Gryzlov said, Interfax reported.