GENEVA, Feb. 15 (Xinhuanet) -- Switzerland uplifted its alert level against avian influenza on Wednesday, reintroducing a ban on keeping poultry outdoors.
The Swiss cabinet announced the restrictions following new cases of the H5N1 virus reported in Germany, Italy and Greece in recent days. Suspected cases have also been announced in Austria and Slovenia.
Swiss poultry farmers will be subject to this second round of anti bird-flu measures from Monday, the Economics Ministry said in a statement, adding that the new restrictions are open-ended.
Chicken, ducks, geese and other domestic fowl will have to be kept under a roof and fenced in to prevent contact with infected wild fowl.
The measures will also include surveillance of migratory birds. The Federal Veterinary Office plans to set up a permanent screening system.
"Bird flu is in the process of becoming a fixture in our region and Switzerland should be prepared to deal with this threat for years," the statement said.
Swiss poultry farmers were required to keep their birds inside from Oct. 25 to Dec. 15 last year, when migratory birds were crossing the country on their way south.
The authorities made it clear at the time that such restrictions could be reintroduced during the return flights of wild fowl from Africa to northern and eastern Europe.
From next month, wild fowl passing through Switzerland will once again be tested for bird flu. A surveillance program last autumn found no evidence of the disease in some 800 birds.
Any infection passed on to Switzerland's 7.2 million domestic poultry population could have disastrous consequences not only for the poultry industry but also for society as a whole, experts warned. Enditem