Hundreds of thousands of poultry culled in Europe as bird flu continues to spread

Bird flu has been found in various countries in Europe.
Bird flu has been found in various countries in Europe. Photo credit: File / Getty

Hundreds of thousands of poultry birds are being culled in Europe as countries on the continent scramble to contain an outbreak of avian influenza.

France has already slaughtered 200,000 birds and is set to cull 400,000 more in a bid to stop the virus spreading among duck flocks in the southwest of the country, Reuters reports.

Germany has also ordered 62,000 turkey and ducks to be culled after the type H5N8 bird flu was confirmed on two farms in the Cloppenburg region, one of the country's leading poultry production areas.

A number of countries on the continent have reported the virus in recent weeks, with wild birds suspected of spreading the disease.

The spread of the virus in Europe follows a similar outbreak in Japan reported late last year.

More than 3 million birds have been culled there, with the virus being found in around a quarter of the country's 47 prefectures, in Japan's worst bird flu outbreak on record.

While Japan's agriculture ministry says it is not possible for people to catch avian influenza from eating the eggs or meat of infected birds, health officials around the world are concerned the virus could make a "species jump" and be a threat to humans, according to Reuters.

An outbreak of the virus has also been confirmed in South Korea, where hundreds of thousands of chickens and ducks have been preventatively killed to stop its spread.

According to experts, the Asian and European strains of the virus are separate but both are believed to have originated in wild birds.