France moves to “high” risk level as avian influenza spreads in Europe

With avian influenza cases rising, France heightens biosecurity measures
calendar icon 8 November 2021
clock icon 4 minute read

© Pascal Xicluna / agriculture.gouv.fr

Reinforced prevention measures will therefore be applied in order to protect poultry farms. They are accompanied by a strengthening of crisis management systems within the ministry in conjunction with the territorial services and professionals.

Since the beginning of August, 130 cases or outbreaks of avian influenza have been detected in wildlife or in farms in Europe, particularly on the shores of the North Sea and the Baltic Sea, including three outbreaks in farms Germans. At the same time, the confinement of all professional farms was decided in the Netherlands following the detection of an outbreak in a farm of laying hens. In Italy, six outbreaks have been detected in broiler turkey farms in the Verona region since October 19.

In this context and with the approach of the migratory period at risk, France is in a situation of strong vigilance. 3 contaminated backyards are identified in the departments of Ardennes and Aisne. A first increase in the level of risk took place on September 10, leading to the implementation of a set of reinforced biosecurity measures in the communes classified at risk (priority risk zones and zones at risk of dissemination).

The acceleration of the epizootic in Europe is leading to a transition to a “high” risk level with the application of the following preventive measures throughout the metropolitan territory:

  • sheltering poultry from commercial farms and securing or netting backyards;
  • ban on the organization of gatherings and the participation of poultry originating in the territories concerned;
  • enhanced conditions for transport, introduction into the natural environment of game birds and use of decoys;
  • ban on racing pigeon competitions departing or arriving from France until March 31;
  • compulsory vaccination in zoos for birds that cannot be confined or protected under netting.

These measurements are accompanied by daily clinical monitoring in all farms (commercial and non-commercial). Their purpose is to protect domestic poultry from potential contamination. In areas with a high risk of distribution, samples will be taken before movement and only people essential to the operation of the farms may enter them. Density reductions in areas affected by previous crises are also underway as this risky period approaches.

The sheltering methods have been adapted to take into account the production conditions, in particular for open-air breeding or under specific specifications. The purpose of these adaptations is to ensure a high level of protection against the risk of introducing the virus into farms.

The increase in the level of risk does not call into question the status of "country free from avian influenza" recovered by France on September 2.

The increase in the level of risk follows scientific and health recommendations with the aim of protecting itself as much as possible from the dramatic consequences for the poultry sectors, already strongly affected by the crisis of November 2020 - May 2021. It intervenes after information on November 4 of the professionals in the poultry industry and the National Federation of Hunters.

In addition, the Ministry of Agriculture and Food is strengthening its governance to anticipate and react in the event of outbreaks in breeding in France. As foreseen by the roadmap drawn up with professionals on July 8, 2021, crisis governance is therefore evolving with, at the national level, the forthcoming appointment of an influenza crisis director in charge of steering the management of the crisis in link with the six poles of the crisis unit of the Directorate-General for Food (DGAL). At the territorial level, the prefect of the western defense zone, Madame Fabienne Buccio, prefect of Nouvelle Aquitaine, has been appointed as pilot.

State services are also working to define ways of managing a possible crisis based on scenarios that take into account the number of outbreaks or their location. Preparation exercises are conducted in several departments. Finally, the Immunization Outlook Working Group met last week and a work plan was shared with stakeholders.

As a reminder, avian influenza is not transmissible to humans through the consumption of poultry meat, eggs, fatty liver and more generally any food product.

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