The French government confirmed today that the H5N1 bird flu virus struck a turkey farm, in the European Union’s first outbreak of the lethal strain in commercial poultry.
The confirmation came from the farming ministry, based on lab tests.
The turkey farm, in south-east France’s Ain region, has been sealed off and the surviving birds slaughtered.
The spread of bird flu to commercial stocks in France, which has been working for months to prevent and prepare for an outbreak, served as a sobering sign for other developed countries that consider themselves well protected against the virus.
In an indication of the global impact of the French case, Japan had already temporarily suspended imports of French poultry yesterday, including the delicacy foie gras, meat and other internal organs, according to the Japanese Embassy in Paris.
In 2005, Japan imported 1,510 metric tons of duck and other poultry meat and 377 metric tons of internal organs, including foie gras, from France.
France has some 200,000 farms that raise 900m birds each year.