It's here: First likely case of bird flu detected in France

17th February 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Feb 17, 2006 (AFP) - France, Europe's top poultry producer, braced for a possible bird flu outbreak after tests on Friday showed that a wild duck found dead in a marsh was probably carrying the H5N1 strain of the virus.

PARIS, Feb 17, 2006 (AFP) - France, Europe's top poultry producer, braced for a possible bird flu outbreak after tests on Friday showed that a wild duck found dead in a marsh was probably carrying the H5N1 strain of the virus.

Initial tests on the bird, found in the central-eastern Ain department on Monday, revealed that it was carrying the H5 strain of bird flu, officials said.

French Agriculture Minister Dominique Bussereau said late Friday there was a "90 percent" chance that the dead wild duck found in the central-eastern Ain department was infected with the pathenogenic H5N1 strain of the virus.

He added that the definite result of further tests result would be known by late Saturday or early Sunday, after leaving an emergency ministerial meeting called by Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin.

If confirmed, it would be the first case of H5N1 bird flu in the country, which is western Europe's main crossroads for migratory birds, potential carriers of the virus.

"There is no reason to panic, to be afraid," Bussereau told reporters. "This simply shows that we are in a state of vigilance, and that we react as soon as something happens, in line with the principle of precaution."

A three-kilometre safety cordon has has been set up around the spot where the duck was found, near the town of Joyeux, and wildlife surveillance stepped up across a 10-kilometre area.

Earlier authorities said that a dead swan found in southeastern France was not carrying a bird flu virus.

Tests were still being carried out on two other dead ducks, found in a wildlife reserve at the mouth of the Somme river near the north coast.

The food safety agency had warned earlier this week of a heightened risk of the virus reaching the country, with one expert warning that it is only a matter of time before it arrives in France.

The government has already ordered all poultry and tame birds to be kept indoors, to prevent contamination from wild birds.

All farm ducks and geese are also to be vaccinated in three departments on the Atlantic coast.

Poultry sales have already been hit, falling around 12 percent since the start of the year, and as much as 30 percent in the case of free-range poultry, which accounts for 17 percent of French production.

Fears of a bird flu outbreak have started to spread in the north-easterm Alsace region, an important breeding ground for swans and storks, according to the local bird protection agency.

The agency says it has been swamped with calls from worried members of the public, some asking whether they should destroy swallows' nests out of fear the birds could be carrying the virus.

Meanwhile in the Mediterranean region of Camargue, an important stop on the route of many migratory birds, teams of scientists are watching for the arrival of the first major waves of birds returning from Africa.

Using radar equipment, the teams are charged with alerting the authorities as soon as large numbers of wild geese, swans, teals and storks start flying up from the south.

So far, the H5N1 virus -- which in its highly pathogenic form can be fatal to humans -- has been detected within Europe in Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Germany, Greece, Italy, Romania, Slovenia, Ukraine and the European part of Russia.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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