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France identifies bird flu case on duck farm

A case of avian influenza has been found on a duck farm in southwestern France, but it is unclear if the virus is highly contagious sub-type.

8 December 2020, at 7:20am

Reuters reports that France’s latest bird flu cases are part of a wider outbreak that has been spreading rapidly in Europe. The continent’s poultry industry is on high alert as previous outbreaks have led to the culling of tens of millions of birds.

CIFOG director Marie-Pierre Pe, leader of an industry group that represents foie gras and fattened poultry producers, said the latest case was discovered on Friday 4 December at a farm of about 6,000 ducks due to be force-fed - a technique used to make foie gras - in the town of Benesse-Maremne, near the city of Biarritz and the Spanish border.

"Initial tests have shown that it is an outbreak of H5 avian influenza but it remains to be seen whether it highly or low pathogenic and whether it is the H5N8 strain or another one," Pe told Reuters.

If confirmed this would be the first outbreak of the so-called highly pathogenic avian influenza on a farm this year.

A security zone was set up around the farm even before the confirmation, something that was not done in 2016/2017 when a wave of bird flu led to the death and culling of millions of poultry, she said.

France has already detected the H5N8 virus on birds sold in three pet stores. Investigations found that the wild birds had been sold by the same person in northern France, the agriculture ministry said last week.

The spread of the virus in Europe prompted France to raise its bird flu security alert to "high" in early November, which requires keeping birds indoors or installing protective netting to prevent contact with wild birds that spread the disease.

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