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Bird flu confirmed in Crimea

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(CNN) -- The H5 strain of bird flu was found in chickens and geese in two districts on the Crimean Peninsula in the Black Sea, the Ukrainian Agricultural Policy Ministry's press service said Saturday, according to Russia's Interfax news agency.

The strain was found in the villages of Nekrasovka and Sovetskoye in the Sovetsky district of the Crimea, and in the villages of Izobilnoye and Emelyanovka in the Nizhnegorsky district, the news agency said.

The birds tested positive for H5 strains of bird flu, but it was not clear whether they have the H5N1 strain researchers fear could cause a human pandemic. Samples will be sent to laboratories in Britain or Italy, the Agricultural Policy Ministry told Interfax.

On Friday, mass poultry deaths were reported in villages in the Sovetsky, Nizhnegorsky and Dzhankoi districts, Interfax said. A total of 1,500 birds have died.

Ukrainian Agricultural Policy Minister Oleksandr Baranivsky said a crisis team of experts and scientists were working in the Crimea, Interfax reported.

To date, the only human cases of H5N1 bird flu have been confined to Asia, but the deadly strain appears to be spreading among migratory birds.

Last month, the United States banned poultry from mainland British Columbia after a duck there tested positive for the H5 strain of avian flu.

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