Severe Strain of Bird Flu in Poultry Farms

Paris, Jan 7 (AFP/APP): French producers of foie gras called Thursday for a mass preventive cull of ducks to try to halt the spread of a severe strain of bird flu that is ripping through poultry farms in the southwest of the country.

The highly pathogenic H5N8 virus was first detected in a bird in a pet shop on the Mediterranean island of Corsica in November before spreading to duck farms on the mainland in December.

Several European countries have reported cases of infection, five years after a major outbreak prompted the slaughter of millions of ducks in France.

“The virus is stronger than us. New clusters are constantly emerging,” the head of France’s CIFOQ federation of foie gras producers, Marie-Pierre Pe, told AFP.

On Tuesday, the government’s chief veterinary officer, Loic Evain, said that over 200,000 ducks had already been slaughtered and that a further 400,000 birds were set to be culled, out of around 35 million reared each year.

He described the virus, which is not harmful to humans, as “very, very contagious”. Officials in Belgium said Thursday they had culled three contaminated poultry flocks one in Menin, in the west of the country, another in Dinant in the south, and a third in Dixmude in western Flanders.

Belgium’s federal food safety agency AFSCA, which has ordered poultry owners to lock up their animals to avoid contamination, said that 20 cases of the virus had been found in wild birds.

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