German Chancellor Angela Merkel described the situation as "serious" as bird flu reached her country's mainland, while the deadly H5N1 strain continued to spread across the globe.

On the weekend, France, India and Iran became the latest countries to report finding avian flu in birds, raising the total to 22 worldwide. Seven of these have also reported human cases and deaths.

Merkel raised the alarm on Sunday while visiting the Baltic Sea island of Ruegen, where Germany's first cases of bird flu were reported during the week.

German authorities ordered a limited cull of the island's poultry on Sunday in order to prevent the strain's spread from wild birds to domestic ones.

German troops ordered to the island to help contain the outbreak on Ruegen, where the virus has been confirmed in 18 birds.

Merkel joined local officials for an emergency meeting to discuss the outbreak of bird flu.

"The way I see it, it is serious," Merkel said. "I would like to say that there are many, many people helping out and they are doing their utmost."

Hours after the meeting, scientists confirmed that the first cases of the H5N1 strain had been confirmed in two dead birds in a northern area on the German mainland.

India conducts mass cull of birds

The H5N1 strain has killed more than 90 people and led to the cull of millions of birds since it was first detected in Southeast Asia in 2003.

Health officials are worried that the virus will mutate so that it can be spread easily from human to human, sparking a pandemic.

In related developments on Sunday:

* Farm workers and health officials in western India slaughtered more than 50,000 chickens and sprayed farms with disinfectant, a day after the country reported its first outbreak. Officials said they were also looking for any possible human cases, including by conducting house-to-house checks for any backyard poultry and anyone showing bird-flu-like symptoms.

* Egyptian authorities closed the zoo in Cairo, where some birds recently tested positive for the H5N1 strain. Health workers killed thousands of baby chicks and other domestic birds in the country.

* In France, some farmers in the southeastern Ain region began slaughtering their birds out of caution a day after officials confirmed that H5N1 was found in a wild dead duck in the region.

* The Italian Health Ministry said a wild duck and six wild swans had tested positive, bringing the country's total number of cases to 16.

* Bosnia was conducting tests on two swans thought to have died from the virus.