LONDON -- Senior veterinary officials from around the European Union agreed yesterday on new measures aimed at preventing a lethal strain of bird flu from entering the bloc, a day after it was confirmed on the continent's doorstep in Turkey.
The officials also moved to calm fears on a continent with vivid memories of mad cow disease, saying there was no reason to avoid cooked chicken because bird flu is killed in seconds when the meat is cooked.
The new measures, agreed upon after two days of emergency talks, focus on infection control measures on farms and expanding early-detection systems to high-risk areas, such as wetlands frequented by wild birds, said a statement issued yesterday by the EU.
The EU has banned poultry imports from Turkey and Romania, where bird flu was also detected this week. Officials in the two countries destroyed more fowl yesterday.
In Turkey, Betul Demirel of the Seker Pilic poultry company said the sector had come ''close to a standstill" after people stopped eating poultry products. ''There is an 80 percent decrease in sales," since the outbreak began, she said.
Turkish veterinary officials in protective plastic suits, masks, and goggles were trying to catch the remaining birds in the village of Kiziksa, where the virus was detected, and to persuade villagers who were hiding their chickens to surrender the birds.
Officials carried out medical tests on nine people, but released them from medical observation yesterday after determining they probably did not have bird flu. The people live in a neighborhood where 40 pigeons reportedly died.
EU health officials assured Europeans that it was safe to eat poultry and that human infection with bird flu was rare. It was too early to determine whether there had been an impact on poultry consumption across the continent. Preliminary tests found bird flu in a duck and a chicken from Romania, but definitive test results on whether it is the virulent H5N1 strain are not expected until today at the earliest. The lethal strain, cited in the deaths of 60 people in Asia, was confirmed in Turkey on Thursday.
Officials in the Balkans sought to soothe fears by showing they were not afraid to eat fowl. President Traian Basescu of Romania urged people yesterday to continue eating chicken, saying his wife is cooking it at home. In Hungary, where the Poultry Product Board reported the sale of chicken immediately fell 10 percent to 15 percent when the outbreak started, Agriculture Minister Jozsef Graf ate a roasted leg of chicken yesterday at a downtown food market.
The risk of contracting bird flu from handling raw packaged chicken bought in supermarkets is considered negligible, said Bernard Vallat, director general of the World Organization for Animal Health, adding that no such cases have ever been recorded.
The World Health Organization moved yesterday to calm fears about bird flu by emphasizing that the risk of people getting infected is very low.