MUMBAI - India began a door-to-door search for anyone with fever on Monday, quarantining six people in hospital as authorities scrambled to contain the country's first outbreak of bird flu.

In Europe, officials urged people to carry on eating poultry meat despite outbreaks of the lethal H5N1 bird flu strain, saying European Union authorities had the means available to wipe out the disease.

A string of EU countries have now confirmed H5N1 in wild birds, knocking consumer confidence in poultry meat -- especially chicken.

"We have the measures and legislation for containment and eradication of such diseases," EU Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner Markos Kyprianou told a news conference in Brussels.

In Germany, Tornado reconnaissance warplanes and soldiers in biohazard suits were deployed to prevent the spread of bird flu after H5N1 reached the mainland.

Sixty soldiers clad in disease protection suits and gas masks disinfected vehicles on the Baltic island of Ruegen while the air force jets searched the coast for dead birds.

In Italy, where demand for chicken meat has plunged by 70 percent, 30,000 workers have been laid off in the poultry industry.

At least 11 countries have reported bird flu outbreaks over the past three weeks, an indication that the virus, which has killed at least 92 people, is spreading faster.

India's health minister, Anbumani Ramadoss, said the situation was "under control" and there were no human cases of avian flu in the country despite fears at the weekend that a farmer had succumbed to the disease.

Officials in the remote district of Nandurbar in western Maharashtra state launched a door-to-door check for people with fever, and continued a mass cull of up to half a million birds.

Six people, including three young children, with flu-like symptoms were hospitalized on Monday, joining a woman and a child who were placed in an isolation ward the previous day.

"Eight people are in isolation. We are keeping our fingers crossed," federal health secretary P.K. Hota told a news conference in New Delhi.


He said the government had stocked 100,000 courses of the antiviral drug Tamiflu and planned to source another 50,000.

South Africa also announced it would start to stockpile Tamiflu.

Egyptian officials said bird flu had spread to new parts of the country, adding to the devastation in a poultry industry which provided a vital part of Egyptians' diet.

Malaysia reported its first case of H5N1 bird flu since November 2004, with the death of 40 chickens in central Selangor state last week. But Agriculture Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said the public need not worry as no human was affected.

Bird flu's relentless march into the heart of Europe from Asia continued with the virus reaching the German mainland at the weekend and Romania detecting further cases of dead poultry. Bosnia confirmed its first cases of bird flu on Monday and neighboring Croatia reported it second outbreak.

The Russian government said it planned to buy 100 million doses of vaccine to protect domestic fowl.

France gave the West African nation of Niger equipment to improve bird flu testing after H5N1 was confirmed in neighboring Nigeria.

A Reuters photographer in India's Nandurbar said health workers wearing blue overalls, anti-viral masks and goggles were culling chicken by wringing their necks or mixing chemicals in chicken feed.

Television images showed dead birds being dumped in pits covered up by heavy earthmovers. TV also reported hotels and airlines dropping chicken and eggs from menus.

On Monday, Pakistan banned poultry from its eastern and western neighbors India andIran, which found the disease in wild swans last week. Nepal also banned Indian poultry and Bangladesh said it had ordered a high alert along its porous border with India to prevent any poultry smuggling.

More than 200 million birds across Asia, parts of the Middle East, Europe and Africa have died of the virus or been culled.

So far, most victims of bird flu have had contact with chickens, but experts fear the virus might mutate into a strain easily passed among people, causing a pandemic in which millions could die.