"Reynolds said the parrot's tissue samples were mixed by mistake with another bird's so there may be two infected birds in the quarantine center but that is not clear."
Dead British parrot had deadly H5N1 bird fluSun Oct 23, 2005
By Mike Peacock
LONDON (Reuters) - A parrot that died in quarantine in Britain has been found to have the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu, the agriculture ministry said on Sunday, and the spread of the virus meant the country was now at greater risk.
A spokeswoman for Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs confirmed that scientists had found "the highly pathogenic H5N1 virus" in the parrot.
"The closest match is to a strain found in ducks in China earlier this year," the ministry spokesman said.
The parrot, imported from Suriname, South America, was part of a mixed consignment of 148 birds that arrived on September 16, the ministry said. They were held with another consignment of 216 birds from Taiwan.
All the birds were culled while in quarantine.
Debbie Reynolds, Britain's chief veterinary official, told reporters during a teleconference that the parrot likely caught the virus while in the quarantine center where it was kept with the Taiwanese birds.
Her staff reviewed the global threat and determined "there is a high risk of further global dispersion of this virus".
As a result, Britain and others must increase their vigilance.
"There is a risk to the United Kingdom and this risk has increased," she said.
She said however that the finding did not affect Britain's "avian influenza disease-free status".
Reynolds said the parrot's tissue samples were mixed by mistake with another bird's so there may be two infected birds in the quarantine center but that is not clear.
The H5N1 strain has killed more than 60 people in four Asian countries since breaking out in late 2003 in South Korea.
It has also reached European Russia, Turkey and Romania, tracking the paths of migratory birds.
H5N1 has triggered widespread concern because it can transfer to humans in some cases, although only if they have had prolonged and close contact with infected birds, and some experts fear it could mutate to transfer between humans.