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France Locks Down Poultry Farms as Bird Flu Spreads Across Europe

Published: November 5, 2021
PARIS, FRANCE - OCT. 14: A farmer places a flag on the Monument à la République as artisanal poultry farmers sell France's "last 10,000" free-range eggs as new Bird Flu measures threaten to end traditional practices of raising birds outside, in favour of industrial methods, on Oct. 14, 2021, in Paris, France. French duck and poultry farmers say that the two avian influenza orders that were recently published by the Ministry of Agriculture and Food signal the end of outdoor farming in France. (Image: Sam Tarling/Getty Images)

On Nov. 4, France’s agriculture ministry ordered French farmers to keep their poultry indoors due to a heightened risk of bird flu that authorities believe is being spread by migratory birds.

The order communicated the “need to take urgent and immediate preventive measures to protect French poultry farms from potential contamination by the avian influenza virus from wild birds…” 

The French government has placed the entire nation on “high alert” for bird flu as the virus continues to spread across Europe. 

Effective immediately, poultry farmers, large and small, are required to keep their flocks indoors.

“Since the beginning of August, 130 bird flu cases or clusters have been detected in wild animals or on farms in Europe,” the ministry said in a statement after disclosing that three cases were identified in northeast France. 

The lock down follows similar actions taken by farms in the Netherlands on Oct. 26 after a bird flu infection was discovered on a farm in the central province of Flevoland. Approximately 36,000 animals were culled in an attempt to prevent the spread of the disease, Reuters reported. 

Last year, France was forced to cull approximately 3 million birds in its southwestern duck-breeding region after the virus jumped from wild birds to the region’s poultry flocks. 

The French government hopes that the lockdown will help avoid a repeat of the slaughter that occurred last year. 

Avian Influenza (AI) otherwise known as “Bird Flu” is a highly contagious viral infection which affects all species of birds.  The strain currently making its way through the avian population in Europe is the highly infectious H5N1 strain. While the strain largely affects birds, in rare cases it can be passed to humans.

Common symptoms in humans include fever, aching muscles, headache and coughing or shortness of breath. Other unlikely symptoms include, bleeding from the nose or gums, diarrhea, stomach pain, chest pain and conjunctivitis, or “pink eye.”

Typically it takes three to five days for the first symptoms to appear following direct exposure to a diseased bird.