France ready for another massive slaughter of ducks in third bird flu epidemic in five years

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                Le gouvernement français a ouvert la voie à l'euthanasie de centaines de milliers de canards pour contenir une épidémie de grippe aviaire qui a déjà fait détruire 700 000 volailles.  Le gouvernement a souligné qu'il n'y a aucun risque pour les humains dans cette troisième épidémie ces dernières années, mais les scientifiques mettent en garde contre des dommages à long terme.
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                                    <p>Le gouvernement français a déclaré mardi que 700 000 oiseaux euthanasiés depuis décembre seraient suivis de centaines de milliers d'autres alors que les autorités élargissaient la gamme d'autorisations d'abattage dans les fermes touchées par l'épidémie.

Those responsible for Gers, Landes, Pyrénées-Atlantiques and Hautes-Pyrénées, as well as 11 municipalities in Lot-et-Garonne, all administrative departments in southwestern France, have been newly authorized to destroy the birds.

An earlier authorization published on January 3 concerned 110 municipalities in the Landes and 15 in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques.

The extended measures were taken “in view of the rapid spread of the virus responsible for the highly contagious avian influenza of the H5N8 subtype in wild and domestic poultry and the need to prevent the risk of the epidemic spreading”, according to a note from the Journal official, French register of legal information.

While more than 700,000 birds had already been slaughtered since the first epidemic in the Landes in early December, 198 flu clusters had been identified on Monday, against 127 on Friday, according to Agriculture Minister Julien Denormandie.

Several hundred thousand additional birds, most of them ducks raised to produce foie gras, would be euthanized in the coming days as a precaution, said the Ministry of Agriculture.

Poultry farmers called on the government to expand the cull, warning that this was not happening quickly enough to prevent the spread of the virus.

Third epidemic in five years

The H5N8 strain of the bird flu virus was detected in the Netherlands in October, triggering warnings across Europe.

Since its detection in southwestern France in early December, the virus has spread quickly enough to represent the third bird flu outbreak in the country in five years.

Avian influenza caused cullings in epidemics in the winters of 2015-2016 and 2016-2017, in which 25 million and 4.5 million additional birds, respectively, were killed.

Duck farmers were already suffering from the Covid-19 epidemic, which reduced demand for foie gras during the holiday season. China has suspended imports from France due to the bird flu epidemic.

The French government has announced compensation for breeders losing birds and sought to reassure that the consumption of foie gras and other animal products poses no risk to humans.

“Continue to eat duck, chicken, eggs, foie gras, there is absolutely no risk, this bird flu is not transmissible to humans through food, it is safe to continue to enjoy of our artisanal products ”, declared the Minister of Agriculture Julien Denormandie during a visit to the Gers on Monday.

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No short-term risk for humans

Scientists have confirmed that there is no risk of the bird flu virus infecting humans at this time, but have warned of what continued outbreaks and mutations of the virus could cause.

“In the short term, there is no risk of zoonosis,” Jean-Luc Guérin, professor and specialist in avian diseases at the ENVT veterinary school in Toulouse, told French magazine. L’Express.

“This virus is perfectly suited to birds, especially ducks. But letting it thrive in bird farms for years and decades would mean running the risk of it becoming dangerous to humans.

The H5N8 virus is a mutation of H5N1, which began infecting humans in Asia in 2005 with a death rate as high as 50%, virologist Hervé Fleury told the magazine.

(with press wires)

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