By Barbara Olejnik
Poultry Times staff
GAINESVILLE, Ga. — France is contending with an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza, which has affected various poultry flocks in five of the country’s departments or regions.
The outbreaks began Nov. 24, and as of Dec. 16, there have been 15 separate outbreaks affecting nearly 68,000 birds in the southwest of France, the region of the country that is home to a concentrated population of foie gras and poultry producers.
This the first time the highly pathogenic avian influenza virus has appeared in France since 2007.
Eight HPAI outbreaks in the Dordogne department affected 10,162 birds, including chickens, ducks and geese. In the Landes department the virus was found in ducks, guinea fowl, hens, capons, chickens and keets. Single outbreaks have been recorded in the Haute-Vienne, Gers and Pyrenees Atlantiques departments of the country.
The French government has taken several actions designed to control the spread of the virus.
These include imposing quarantines on farms hit by the avian influenza, placing controls on domestic movements of poultry and increasing surveillance and screening of poultry farms that are unaffected by the virus.
A string of countries have already banned imports of French poultry following the outbreaks. These include Algeria, China, Egypt, Japan, Morocco, South Korea, Thailand and Tunisia.
Other countries, including France’s European Union partners, have accepted containment measures proposed by Paris under World Health Organization guidelines.
The French government has stressed that the bird flu virus found in the five southwest regions of the country has no risk of spreading to humans.
The H5N1 strain found in France is different from the Asian strain that has caused many human deaths, the government stated.
In addition, the government notes that meat, fois gras and eggs from French poultry are safe to eat.
In addition to the H5N1 strain, the H5N2 and the H5N9 strains have also been detected.
The emergence of three different strains in such a short time is unprecedented, according to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). However, this could be caused by all the strains being carried by wild birds or low pathogenic strains evolved into high pathogenic ones.
Wild birds are generally suspected of being the carriers of the virus, although the disease can also be tracked onto poultry farms by people or trucks that come in contact with contaminated feces.