Bird flu spreading beyond French restriction zone

  • 14/01/2016
A French farmer with ducks in their cage at a poultry farm in Doazit, Southwestern France (Reuters)
A French farmer with ducks in their cage at a poultry farm in Doazit, Southwestern France (Reuters)

An avian flu outbreak has been identified in a town located outside a restriction zone.

The French farm ministry established the zone last month in an effort to contain the highly infectious disease, as a rising number of countries banned French poultry products.

There have been 69 outbreaks of highly pathogenic bird flu found in eight administrative districts since November 24 in southwestern France.

"One new case was found in Haute-Garonne," a farm ministry official said on Wednesday, adding that France would therefore widen the restriction zone.

It now includes the six administrative departments where bird flu had been found so far - Dordogne, Gers, Haute-Vienne, Landes, Pyrenees-Atlantiques and Hautes-Pyrenees - as well as the whole of Gironde and Lot-et-Garonne, and parts of the Lot and Charente departments.

Avian flu cannot be transmitted to humans through food.

Some viruses have infected humans, but initial results showed that the strains found in France posed no risk of being caught by humans, the farm minister said.

More than a dozen countries including Japan - the world's largest importer of foie gras - imposed restrictions on French poultry products, live animals or hatching eggs after the bird flu outbreaks, which were found mainly in ducks and chickens.

Meanwhile in Scotland, a cull of about 40,000 birds is taking place at a poultry farm in Fife where a "mild strain" of bird flu was found.

A one kilometre protection zone was put in place around Craigies Poultry Farm near Dunfermline where a case of H5N1 avian influenza was identified among chickens on Monday.

Scotland's chief veterinary officer Sheila Voas described it as a "very mild strain", said to be less serious than other forms of the virus that have caused concern in recent years.

The risk to human health is considered "very low" according to Health Protection Scotland.

The humane culling process, in which the birds are being gassed, is taking place over two days.

Poultry producers have been urged to be vigilant in light of the recent developments.

Restrictions have been imposed in the Fife control zone, including on the movement of poultry, carcasses, eggs, used poultry litter and manure.

The discovery comes after a number of cases of avian influenza across Europe in recent months.

Three cases were found in the UK last year.

Ms Voas has said that consumers should not be concerned about eating eggs or poultry.