LONDON, Oct. 22 (Xinhuanet) -- British scientists are carrying out tests on a parrot died from the country's first case of bird flu, and the government and the European Union insist Britain is still free of bird flu.
"The confirmed case does not affect the UK's official disease free status because the disease has been identified in imported birds during quarantine," said Chief Veterinary Officer Debby Reynolds on Saturday.
The parrot was in quarantine when it died of the H5 strain of the virus and scientists are trying to confirm whether it was the feared H5N1 strain that is deadly to humans, Sky news reported on Saturday.
More than 300 birds which were being held in a biosecure quarantine unit at an undisclosed location have been humanely culled.
The parrot was part of a mixed consignment of 148 birds that arrived from Suriname, South America on September 16. They were being held alongside 216 birds from Taiwan.
H5N1, which has infected over 100 people, killing 60 in their midst, has spread into Romania, Turkey and Russia.
Reynolds said the incident showed the importance of the UK's quarantine system.
The last time a case of avian flu was confirmed in Britain was 1992.
It is a highly-infectious viral disease which affects poultry, pigeons and other birds and varies in severity, from causing no deaths to killing entire flocks in hours.
It is most easily spread through bird secretions, particularly faeces, but can also be passed via objects contaminated by an infected bird.
Britain's Chief Medical Officer Liam Donaldson has warned that a flu pandemic may kill up to 50,000 people in the country alone. Enditem กก