Second case of H5N1 bird flu confirmed in France

A second case of the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus has been confirmed in a wild duck in France, Agriculture Ministry officials said today.

The duck was found dead on February 19 in the Ain region, the Agriculture Ministry said. The discovery followed a first case of bird flu found a week ago in another duck found dead in the same region, in south-eastern France.

The second duck was found in the village of Bouvent, 22 miles from the site of the first case, in the village of Joyeux.

Special surveillance measures were being put in place around Bouvent, the Agriculture Ministry statement said. Under the measures, vehicles will be checked to ensure that no poultry leaves the region.

France is Europe’s largest poultry producer. Last week, the government ordered all domestic birds indoors or, in a few regions, vaccinated in a bid to halt bird flu. Violators could face fines of up to €750.

The discovery of a second case of the lethal strain of the virus came a day after President Jacques Chirac ordered the government to calm consumer fears over bird flu in France. Poultry sales plunged by 25 to 30 per cent since the first case was reported last week.

“I order you remind our compatriots that bird flu doesn’t affect poultry farms and that there is no danger in consuming poultry and eggs,” Chirac said during a government meeting, according to spokesman Jean-Francois Cope.

Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin appeared on television, eating chicken and cradling a chick in his arms on a visit to the Ain region yesterday.

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