Avian flu outbreak spreads to France despite extensive risk management

France has detected an outbreak of highly pathogenic bird flu virus on a turkey farm in the northwest of the country, the agriculture ministry said.

The outbreak is the latest worrying indication of the scale and swiftness of the spread of the highly transmissible pathogen, which could have devastating consequences for the European poultry industry and its insurers.

The latest case also comes despite extensive risk management procedures in France. To counter the disease, which has disrupted the supply of poultry meat and eggs and sent prices rocketing in parts of the world in recent years, France launched a massive vaccination campaign against bird flu in early October.

The French programme is being initially limited to ducks, which are the most vulnerable to the virus. Ducks accounted for only 8% of total French poultry output in 2022.

The outbreak in the Brittany region, France’s first farm case this autumn, occurred near where an infected wild bird was found, the ministry said in a statement.

Several cases among wild birds have been recorded in recent days, it said, adding the government had raised its national alert level for bird flu to moderate from negligible.

Poultry flocks in areas particularly exposed to contact with wild birds would now be confined indoors, the ministry said.

Avian influenza, commonly known as bird flu, has led to the culling of hundreds of millions birds in the past years. It usually strikes in Europe during autumn and winter and has recently been detected on farms in countries including Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Croatia and Hungary.

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