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France finds H5 bird flu at turkey farm

by 5m Editor
24 February 2006, at 12:00am

FRANCE - France confirmed on Friday the presence of an H5 bird flu virus at a farm in the east of the country where thousands of turkeys had died and said results of tests for the H5N1 strain were expected soon.

France finds H5 bird flu at turkey farm - FRANCE - France confirmed on Friday the presence of an H5 bird flu virus at a farm in the east of the country where thousands of turkeys had died and said results of tests for the H5N1 strain were expected soon.

The suspected outbreak of H5N1 bird flu was discovered on Thursday at a farm with 11,000 turkeys in the department of Ain, where two cases of the disease have already been confirmed in two wild ducks. The deadly virus is highly contagious among poultry and can spread through an entire flock within hours. It remains very difficult for humans to catch but has killed more than 90 people worldwide. Experts say cooked poultry meat remains safe to eat.

"I know that it is the H5 virus, which is a very pathogenic virus," Farm Minister Dominique Bussereau told French television, adding test results for H5N1 were not yet available. "What worries us, and this is why we have reacted immediately, is that the farm is within the protection zone that we set up for the first duck," he added.

If confirmed, it would be the first case of the H5N1 virus spreading to a farm in the European Union and could deal a hammer blow to France's already battered poultry industry, worth 6 billion euros (4 billion pounds) a year and the biggest in the bloc. Poultry sales in France are already down around 30 percent. Local sources said around 80 percent of the turkeys at the farm, situated in a region famous for the quality of its chickens, had died. The remaining birds have been culled.

"The suspicions we had yesterday (Thursday) and which have caused us to unfortunately cull the animals and destroy them afterwards was confirmed this morning," Bussereau said. A security zone of three km (two miles) and a surveillance zone of seven km (five miles) had been set up around the farm as is usual under European Union emergency measures, officials say.

EU RULES

Under EU rules, poultry meat, eggs and products from the zones set up around a bird flu infection site are blocked from the market, except for certain products that meet stringent conditions, such as heat-treated meat. But trade in these products may continue from other non-affected parts of the country.

French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin has announced a government aid package worth 52 million euros for the poultry sector to cope with the crisis. Representatives from the sector met the government on Thursday, saying their losses since November amounted to 130 million euros due to the slump in sales.

France has permission from the EU for a limited vaccination programme in geese and ducks in three departments in the west of the country believed to be at risk from migratory birds. Bussereau said two of the departments had decided to opt for the confinement of fowl rather than vaccination.

Source: Reuters - 24th February 2006

5m Editor