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Bird flu: Europe on alert as Netherlands and France announce warnings

France has put parts of its country on high alert for bird flu after several cases of the disease were reported across the European continent.  

The government decree that was announced on Thursday requires farms to keep animals indoors or install protective netting to prevent the spread of the disease.  

"The presence of the virus in wild animals near France's borders, in a migratory channel that crosses national territory, justifies the raising of the risk level," the government said in the order.

Earlier in the day, the Netherlands ordered the culling of 200,000 chickens after detecting the outbreak of a highly pathogenic strain of bird flu at a farm in the eastern town of Puiflijk.  

The disease is highly contagious for birds, but risks of transmission to humans are considered low, according to EU health and food agencies. However, cases of transmission to humans have been reported in the past and these can be fatal.  

The other surrounding farms near Puiflijk are also being tested for the disease. Meanwhile, Dutch poultry farmers have been directed to keep birds inside until further notice to prevent transmission. The administration has also banned the transportation of birds within a 10km radius of the farm.

This the second reported case within the past month. Earlier in October, the Dutch animal health authorities had announced the culling of 35,700 broiler chickens after an outbreak at a poultry farm in Atlforst, which is 4km away from the latest reported case.  

Poultry is a €1.6bn (£1.45bn) industry in the Netherlands and employs about 10,000 people on 2,000 farms. The country is the largest exporter of chicken, meat and eggs in the whole of Europe. On Monday, Britain also ordered the culling of 13,000 birds at a farm in Frodsham, Cheshire, after finding bird flu cases.

Last month the EU urged countries to step up surveillance against possible outbreaks of avian flu among wild and domestic birds.


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