France slaughters 600,000 ducks as deadly strains of bird flu sweep across Europe, Europe


PARIS • More than 3.5 million birds across Europe, including the ducks used for the famous French foie gras, have died of bird flu since October in the continent’s most serious epidemic in four years .

New cases of highly contagious strains of H5N8 and H5N1 have been discovered in at least a dozen countries, according to data from the World Organization for Animal Health.

The victims include hundreds of thousands of ducks in France as well as turkeys, hens and laying hens in Poland, the European Union’s largest poultry producer.

The flu – often transmitted by migrating birds – is found most winters, but reports of this season have started earlier than normal and will likely continue until March.

“It’s a really high-pressure season,” said Nan-Dirk Mulder, senior global animal protein strategist at Rabobank in Utrecht, the Netherlands. “I’m afraid we’ll still see cases for the next two months. ”

The outbreak has resulted in restrictions on imports of poultry from countries like China and South Korea.

More than two million birds have died in Poland, while Germany has reported nearly 30 outbreaks. Turkey farms have been hit in Hungary and Britain, and Denmark has suspended sales of chickens outside the EU.

The EU is the world’s third largest shipper of chicken and any lost sales could benefit rivals the US and Brazil.

France – the world’s largest producer of foie gras – has found more than 120 homes in the southwest, where most birds are raised to produce luxury food.

Producers say 600,000 ducks have been slaughtered since last month and hundreds of thousands more are expected to be killed.

Several Asian countries are also grappling with the virus, with South Korea killing nearly six million birds and India reporting cases in four states.



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