As the spread of birds infected with the avian flu virus continues throughout Europe, Italians are being asked to report any dead or ill birds that they find to their local health authorities or to the fire brigade. In Rome, for the most part, the birds being found are starlings or crows but a dead hawk and a wild goose were found on 14 February. All of these birds are being tested for the virus.

To help inform the public, Fabrizio Pregliasco, virologist at Milans state university, has explained that birds may be divided into three categories.

1. Birds that can get the virus and die from it, such as swans, turkeys, chickens, domestic duck, widgeon, teal, quail, seagulls and plovers.

2. Birds that carry the virus, can infect other birds but may not themselves become ill: wild duck and geese, swallows, cormorants and coots.

3. Birds that appear to be immune to the virus: storks, crows, blackbirds, sparrows, pigeons and starlings.

Anyone who wishes to obtain more information is invited to telephone a hot line at the Italian ministry of health, telephone no.1500 or see www.ministerosaluti.it

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