Avian flu spreads in Germany as concerns mount

The scourge of avian influenza continues to spread in Europe, with some 30,000 ducks slaughtered after an outbreak of the highly contagious virus on a farm in west Germany, authorities said.

The disease was confirmed on a farm in the Guetersloh area, the North Rhine Westphalia state agriculture ministry said.

Last week Poland also reported an outbreak of highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza on two poultry farms near the German border in the north-western part of the country, the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH) said.

The outbreaks were found on farms near the city of Szczecin and killed 22,900 poultry out of a total of 104,165 birds, with the rest of flocks culled, the Paris-based body said, quoting information from Poland’s health authorities.

Avian influenza, commonly called bird flu, has led to the culling of hundreds of millions birds in recent years. The disease usually strikes in Europe during autumn and winter with infection often spread by wild birds.

It has recently been detected on farms in countries including France, Poland, the Netherlands and Belgium. Several other cases in Germany have also been reported in recent weeks.

France recently ordered that a third does of the vaccine against bird flu be given to ducks in areas most at risk, citing “new scientific evidence” as it aims to avoid a surge in outbreaks.

France also raised the risk level for bird flu to ‘high’ from ‘moderate’ after new cases of the disease were detected, forcing poultry farms to keep birds indoors to stem the spread of the highly contagious virus.