Officials prepare for bird flu

BEIJING (AP) – Some 2,600 birds have been found dead of bird flu in northern China’s grasslands, the government said Wednesday, amid reports of new outbreaks in Europe and Russia.

Preliminary tests detected the deadly H5N1 bird flu strain in samples taken from a region south of Moscow where hundreds of birds died suddenly, the Agriculture Ministry said Wednesday.

Scientists fear the H5N1 virus, which is difficult for humans to contract, could mutate into a form more easily transmitted between people and lead to a pandemic.

The United States and European governments have been stockpiling vaccines, and on Wednesday the British government said it was inviting manufacturers to tender for a contract to supply a vaccine if a pandemic strain emerges.

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