European health ministers agreed to step up measures to contain the spread of the H5NO virus, better known as bird flu, in Europe following news of the third human fatality in Turkey and confirmation by the World Health Organisation that there are now 14 confirmed cases in four different regions of the country. The European Union has agreed to block all imports of untreated bird feathers from Turkey as well as from neighbouring countries Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Syria, Iran and Iraq. Valerio Carraro, the chair of the Italian senates bird flu committee, said the situation was under control and sought to calm public fears about the virus, stressing that there was no risk of human contagion and that the government had already implemented a range of measures to keep the virus out of the country. As well as banning imports of poultry from several Balkan countries, scientists were carrying out regular tests on livestock and migratory birds. Controls at the northern port of Trieste, the main entry point to Italy from the east, have been heightened in recent days. Meanwhile, Italian health minister Francesco Storace emerged from a meeting on Monday with the representatives of poultry farmers and the meat processing industry. They fear that over 6,000 farms risk bankruptcy because of the effects on the industry. Despite tumbling prices sales have continued to fall as chicken consumption in Italy has plummeted by 60 per cent since the scare started. Storace said the country may be forced to bring in stiffer controls than the rest of Europe in order to rescue the ailing sector.
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