Romania Maintains Bird-Flu Quarantines

Quarantines meant to halt the spread of bird flu in Bucharest have been scaled back, but some neighborhoods on the outskirts of the city are still under lockdown. On Monday, city officials quarantined thousands of residents in response to growing numbers of bird-flu reports centered about 100 miles north of the capital. Melissa Block talks with Radu Tudor of Romania's Jurnalul National newspaper.

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MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

In Romania, some areas outside the capital of Bucharest are under quarantine after outbreaks of bird flu there. At first, around 13,000 people were put under quarantine, with police sealing off streets. The quarantine was to last up to three weeks. After an outcry, the government has scaled that quarantine back.

Radu Tudor is with the newspaper Jurnalul National in Bucharest.

RADU TUDOR: It is for the first time that the bird flu emergency is taking place here in the capital of Bucharest. There are three areas in this capital where the quarantine has been established by the authorities. One of them was already closed because there are 48 hours of measures that people took blocks from the authorities. The chickens were killed and all the veterinary measures that too can give it to success.

And right now there are only two quarantine areas in Bucharest, very small ones at the outskirts of Bucharest. And it seems that in the next 24 hours, they will be closed also.

BLOCK: Now when you say closed, you mean the quarantine will be lifted?

TUDOR: The quarantine will be lifted and there will be people allowed to buy and to you know consume some chicken in the future.

BLOCK: How does the quarantine work for those areas that still are under quarantine?

TUDOR: There's some mixed measures from the police, from the doctors and from the veterinary taking measures in public order, and basically, closing the area. Nobody gets in, nobody gets out. And all the chickens from that area are killed and the people are getting money from the government to buy the chicken that they are sacrificed.

And all the people get drugs free from the government. For 48 hours every house is cleaned, it's disinfected. And after 48 hours or 72 hours, if there are no new threats, the quarantine is lifted.

BLOCK: And just to be clear here, there have been cases of avian flu detected among birds but no cases of transmission to humans. Is that right?

TUDOR: No, no cases. Romania will join the EU on 1st January 2007 and from this point of view, we are always very close connected with our EU partners. And we are taking European standard measures and of course everything is under control in Romania so there is no danger for tourists or for people who are coming outside Bucharest here.

BLOCK: As I understand it, there were officials there in Romania who said that the district mayor overreacted. The quarantine was too sweeping and that's why it was scaled back?

TUDOR: There were some accusations like this also in the media. And the people in the neighborhood said they overreacted. But he says it's better like this to overreact and not to give any chance to the virus to come back.

BLOCK: What sort of reaction has there been from the people who are in these areas that were quarantined? What have they had to say?

TUDOR: Some of them were angry. Some of them were laughing. Some of them are avoiding some of the measures because it's difficult in the urban area to make a 100 percent no exit area.

BLOCK: The people that were angry, what were they angry about?

TUDOR: About the measures, about the police in the streets, about the idea of not leaving their home to go to the job or not to go to the school and so on.

BLOCK: And you said some people were laughing?

TUDOR: I think they were laughing because not everybody believes that from one chicken with bird flu, there is a danger for 5,000 people in one area.

BLOCK: Well, Mr. Tudor, thanks very much for talking with us.

TUDOR: Thank you, Melissa.

BLOCK: Radu Tudor of the newspaper Jurnalul National. He spoke with us from Bucharest, Romania.

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