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Dutch cull 190,000 chickens after bird flu outbreaks

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    Agence France-Presse

The Hague, Netherlands   /   Sun, November 22, 2020   /   06:55 pm
 Dutch cull 190,000 chickens after bird flu outbreaks Chickens gather at 'Freedom Farm'. (REUTERS/Nir Elias)

Dutch authorities have culled some 190,000 chickens after a highly-contagious strain of bird flu broke out at at least two poultry farms, the agriculture ministry said Sunday.

Health workers slaughtered around 100,000 hens at a poultry farm at Hekendorp outside Gouda while 90,000 chicks were culled at Witmarsum, in northern Friesland.

In both cases "a highly-contagious strain of the H5 variant" was suspected, the ministry said in a statement.

There were no other poultry farms within a one kilometre radius of the outbreaks, it added.

"Both farms were cleared to prevent further spread of the disease," the ministry said.

Seasonal bird flu has been detected at various farms around the Netherlands since October, blamed mainly on migratory birds.

Dutch Agriculture Minister Carola Schouten on October 23 imposed preventative indoor containment on all commercial poultry farms after two dead swans were discovered carrying the highly contagious H5N8 variety of bird flu.

The new measures come as the Netherlands also battles a second wave of Covid-19 which continued to infect around 6,000 people a day.

On Monday, France and Denmark confirmed bird flu cases after an outbreak in the Netherlands triggered a massive cull.

Hundreds of hens were killed after the virus was detected in a garden centre on the French island of Corsica, and the Danes said more than 25,000 birds would be slaughtered after the virus emerged in the west of the country.

France has ordered national protection measures including obligatory confinement of poultry to isolate them from wild birds, while Denmark has suspended exports of eggs to chickens outside the EU.

The virus, which is not harmful to humans but is potentially devastating to the farming sector, has so far appeared in Belgium, the Netherlands, Russia, Ireland and Britain among other countries. 

Dutch officials said earlier this month they had culled more than 200,000 birds. 

Duck breeders in southwestern France have been hit twice in recent years, sparking mass culls that cost producers hundreds of millions of euros.

French officials insisted there was no need for people to change their habits. 

"The consumption of meat, foie gras and eggs - and more generally of any food product - does not present any risk to humans," the ministry said.

Denmark urged farmers to ensure the birds were protected from possible infection.

The Danes recently slaughtered millions of mink after some were found to be infected with the novel coronavirus.