With Europe reporting over a hundred outbreaks of bird flu in recent months, the Netherlands and now France have ordered poultry farmers to keep their chickens indoors. The poultry lockdown measure has already been in place in certain areas in France since September.
The order cited a rising infection rate in migratory corridors as the reason for raising the risk level for the entire country.
Since the beginning of August, 130 bird flu cases or clusters have been detected in wild animals or on farms in Europe, France's Agriculture Ministry said in a statement. It added three cases had been identified among backyard birds in northeast France
The ministry explained that the measure was to protect poultry farms. So far, no cases have been found among professional poultry farmers in France.
France hopes that the lockdown will help avoid a repeat of last year, when bird flu was found in nearly 500 locations. This severely disrupted the production of foie gras from ducks in southwestern France.
The requirement to keep flocks indoors will be adapted to different farming practices, such as free-range farming, the ministry said.
The Netherlands last week also reported a new outbreak of highly pathogenic H5 bird flu among ducks at a poultry farm in the central province of Flevoland. To limit the spread of the disease, about 36,000 animals were culled at the farm, the Dutch agriculture ministry said.
Britain on Wednesday declared a nationwide Avian Influenza Prevention Zone, ordering farms and bird keepers to toughen their bio-security measures after a number of cases of bird flu were spotted in wild birds.
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