Suspected outbreak of bird flu on French turkey farm

A SUSPECTED outbreak of H5N1 bird flu has been detected in a turkey farm in eastern France which, if confirmed, would be the first time farm birds have been infected in Europe.

The deadly H5N1 virus appeared in European poultry for the first time in two chickens in Austria on Wednesday, but the birds were in an animal refuge and not on a farm.

The suspected infection was at a farm containing 11,000 turkeys situated in the Ain department near the village of Joyeux where the first wild bird with the flu virus was found 10 days ago.

All the birds were to be slaughtered.

Earlier, the French agriculture ministry confirmed that a second wild duck found dead in the Ain department was carrying the virus which can be fatal to humans.

Eight EU countries have reported cases of the highly pathogenic H5N1 strain: Hungary, Slovenia, Austria, Greece, Italy, France, Germany and Slovakia.

Last week the French Government ordered poultry farmers across the country to move birds indoors, and announced plans to vaccinate some 900,000 geese and ducks in the south-west whose confinement is not deemed to be practical.

The vaccination could start tomorrow.

The virus continued its march across Europe, appearing for the first time in poultry in Germany and wild birds in Slovakia, though fears eased of the first human cases in India.

Slovakia reported the presence of H5N1 in a grebe and a peregrine falcon, while Germany recorded its first case of flu in domestic birds following initial tests on a duck at a poultry farm on the Baltic Sea island where thousands of wild birds have succumbed to H5N1 since its discovery there last week.

The virus has killed 92 people since 2003, mostly in Asia.

Some 106 chickens and ducks on the small farm near the town of Putbus were slaughtered on Wednesday after testing raised suspicions about three birds, but only the duck tested positive for bird flu.

Bird flu has always been present in birds, but it is the potentially deadly H5N1 strain that is worrying scientists because of the risk of a mutation into a version easily transmittable between humans. To date there has been no confirmed case of human-to-human transmission.

In India health authorities set up checkpoints to stop people leaving their villages around the bird flu-hit town of Navapur as fears began to ease that the deadly virus may have spread to humans.

RK Srivastava, director general of health services, announced all but one of 95 samples collected from residents of the Navapur area had tested negative for avian influenza.

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