France discovers bird flu case in duck farm, tests underway

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PARIS (Reuters) – A case of bird flu has been discovered at a duck farm in southwest France but it is still not known whether this is the highly contagious form of the virus, the body said on Monday representing the foie gras and fattened poultry industry CIFOG.

If confirmed, this would be the first outbreak of so-called highly pathogenic avian influenza on a farm this year.

The disease spread rapidly in Europe, putting the poultry industry on high alert after previous outbreaks led to the culling of tens of millions of birds.

CIFOG director Marie-Pierre Pe said the latest case was discovered on Friday at a farm of around 6,000 ducks that had to be force-fed – a technique used to make foie gras – in the town of Benesse- Maremne, near the city of Biarritz and the Spanish border.

“The first tests have shown that this is an H5 avian influenza epidemic, but it remains to be seen whether it is highly or low pathogenic and whether it is the H5N8 strain or another” Pe told Reuters.

A security zone was set up around the farm even before the confirmation, which was not done in 2016/2017 when a wave of bird flu resulted in the death and culling of millions of poultry, she declared.

France has already detected the H5N8 virus on birds sold in three pet stores. Investigations revealed that the wild birds were sold by the same person in northern France, the agriculture ministry said last week.

The spread of the virus in Europe prompted France to raise its bird flu safety alert to “high” in early November, which requires keeping birds indoors or installing protective nets to avoid contact. with wild birds that spread the disease.

Report by Sybille de La Hamaide; Editing by Edmund Blair

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