Spanish Agriculture Minister Elena Espinosa

The agriculture minister of Spain calls fears the bird flu moving westward across Europe will create a global outbreak among humans “science fiction.”

“The idea of a pandemic among humans is something from science fiction,” Elena Espinosa said on the private radio station Cadena Ser, according to Agence France-Presse.

Claiming it’s currently “solely and exclusively a veterinary problem,” Espinosa said human infections in Asia were “in very specific poultry raising situations where the families lived with the chickens and infection was due to constant inhalation.”

Outbreaks of the H5N1 strain of avian flu have been confirmed in Romania and Turkey, as further tests are still taking place on a suspect case in Greece. The strain has killed 60 people in Asia over the past three years.

The main fear among scientists is that while H5N1 does not spread easily from person to person, it could mutate into a form transmissible with seasonal flu in humans, potentially killing millions as was the case in the 1918 influenza pandemic.

“We’ve never seen so much influenza in so many birds in such close proximity to humans in so many places,” said CDC Director Julie Gerberding. “If ever there was a time when the risk [of a pandemic] was higher than usual it is now.”

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