France raises bird flu alert again, 19 million animals killed

France bird flu: France raises bird flu alert again, 19 million animals killed
Goose in cage, photo: Canva

France will tighten measures to contain bird flu again after a second outbreak of the virus in the country, the agriculture ministry said. Between November and May, France killed over 19 million birds in an attempt to contain bird flu.  

The government raised the alert level on bird flu from ‘low’ to ‘moderate’. In June, the government scaled back restrictions after a slowdown in outbreaks. 

But France, the Netherlands and other European countries see a rise in the number of wild birds and birds kept in captivity on farms affected by bird flu.

“There were sometimes outbreaks in the winter, and not every year, but now we see the virus stays around all year, also in the summer,” bird flu expert Nancy Beerens at the Wageningen Bioveterinary Research (WBVR) told the newspaper The Guardian

“In the past, episodes of bird flu happened with the coming of migratory birds, and more and more, we are realizing, especially this year, that bird flu is also present in wildlife in France,” Jean-Michel Schaeffer, chairman of bird farming industry group Anvol, said. 

The Netherlands killed 28,000 chicks and 15,000 chickens on Thursday after bird flu outbreaks on two farms. On Monday, the Dutch government ordered the killing more than 200,000 chickens on a farm after detecting bird flu.

The only response governments have to bird flu is to kill all animals around the infected animals. Their bodies are then destroyed. 

Dutch virologist Thijs Kuiken said that “the intensive way of raising animals, with a huge number of animals huddled together in one spot, is no longer sustainable for many reasons.”

He added that the highly pathogenic H5N1 type of bird flu, which has been spreading through Europe, emerged due to intensive bird farming.

“Normally, wild birds only carry the low-pathogenic variant. In intensive chicken farming, this mild flu mutated into a serious variant,” Kuijken said. 

   

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