February 2, 2017 / 11:45 AM / 7 months ago

Portugal strengthens bird flu controls after case in wild bird

LISBON (Reuters) - Portugal has reinforced veterinary controls in the southern Algarve region after detecting an isolated case of a highly contagious strain of bird flu virus in a gray heron, officials said.

The Agriculture Ministry's Veterinary and Food General Directorate said the case was detected last week and confirmed on Jan. 31, when it banned trade in poultry in local markets and raise the alert level for the H5N8 influenza A virus.

That strain of flu is highly contagious in birds but has not been found in humans so far, the directorate said.

It has been spreading across Europe since late last year, leading to the large-scale slaughter of poultry in several countries, while other bird flu strains have led to some human deaths in China.

While most strains are currently low risk for human health, the number of different types and their presence in many parts of the world at the same time increase the risk of viruses mixing and mutating - and possibly jumping to people.

Reporting By Andrei Khalip, editing by Axel Bugge and John Stonestreet

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