The New York Times is reporting this morning that migrating swans have carried the deadly H5N1 avian influenza to several Western European countries much earlier than expected.

"The virus was confirmed in mute swans in Greece, Bulgaria and Italy on Saturday, and in Germany on Wednesday," the article said. "Likely cases were detected in the same species in Slovenia and Croatia on Sunday, Austria on Monday and Denmark on Tuesday." The swans normally migrate to these areas later in the spring.

Poultry producers in Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands have been ordered to keep their flocks indoors, according to the report. Health authorities in Germany and Hungary set up two-mile protection zones around the spots where dead swans had been found, with all poultry required to be kept indoors and the shipping of meat outside the zones forbidden.

More than 150 swans dead in Iran

Iran has confirmed that the deadly H5N1 strain of avian influenza killed 153 wild swans found in two wetland areas Feb. 2, according to the report posted yesterday on the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) Web site.

Officials destroyed all native birds and compensated owners in the six villages in the 2-kilometer protection zone around each outbreak site, in accordance with Iran's national contingency plan on notifiable avian influenza (NAI), the report said. The swans were found in the Anzali Wetland in the Rasht region in northwest Iran. is reporting the European Commission as saying authorities found an H5 subtype of the virus in swans in a southern county of Hungary. Greece, Italy, Ukraine and Romania also have had confirmed outbreaks, the news service said.

SOURCE: The New York Times, the World Organization for Animal Health and