WASHINGTON (AP) – Large segments of the populations in the United States and Spain, Italy, France, Germany and Britain are expressing concerns about the spread of bird flu.

An Ipsos poll conducted before the disease had spread to Europe found those in Spain and Italy were most concerned, with about half the people in those countries saying they are worried. Only a third in the United States said they were worried.

Roughly four in 10 in Britain and France and three in 10 in Germany say they’re worried. Fears about the bird flu tend to increase among older people in all of the European countries.

A third of people in the U.S. and France said they don’t know enough about bird flu to have an opinion, while a fourth in Britain and Spain said they didn’t know enough about it.

Scientists fear the virus, which so far has been spread primarily to poultry workers by infected birds, could mutate into a form more easily transmitted between people and lead to a pandemic.

European Union foreign ministers on Tuesday declared the spread of bird flu from Asia to Europe a “global threat.” And Romanian officials announced a swan with bird flu antibodies was discovered near the Ukrainian border. It was not immediately clear whether the swan was infected with a deadly bird flu strain that has swept poultry populations in large swaths of Asia.

As anxiety rises about the threat of bird flu, governments are taking steps to prepare for the possible spread of the disease.

In the countries polled, government officials are making preparations to stockpile millions of doses of vaccines in case of a pandemic virus.

And governments are taking additional steps:

-In France, 50 million masks to protect against bird flu are being delivered to French hospitals, and by year’s end 200 million masks should be available.

-In Italy, dozens of extra veterinarians have been hired to help authorities monitor the health of poultry and label poultry to indicate where the meat comes from.

-In Britain, the government has asked hunting and conservation groups to help monitor the country’s bird population.

-In Spain, the government has put a ban on bird imports from affected countries Romania and Turkey. And citizens most at risk would be protected through an anti-flu vaccination campaign.

-In Germany, farmers are being asked to keep their poultry inside and away from any risk of contact with migrating birds.

The polling of about 1,000 adults in each of the countries was done Sept 23-Oct. 1. Each survey has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

On the Net:

Ipsos: http://www.ipsos.com

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