France introduces pre-emptive bird flu biosecurity measures
Tthe France’s agriculture ministry announced new measures to tackle bird flu, and raised the country’s risk level from "low" to "moderate" in response to a recommendation from public health watchdog ANSES.
The department said wild birds have been implicated in outbreaks in other European countries, and added that these have occurred around wetland habitats; wetlands which host migratory birds are now being treated as "special high-risk zones" by disease surveillance officials.
The new biosecurity measures mandated by the heightened risk level in Europe’s top poultry producer include ensuring all poultry are housed or kept under netting to prevent contact with wild birds, unless farms have special derogations (high welfare farmers will have to prove they are observing stringent biosecurity conditions in other ways).
Constraints have also been placed on waterfowl hunting, game shooting and pigeon racing.
In the highest risk areas these activities are prohibited, and gatherings like bird fairs or racing pigeon events will be subject to restrictions throughout the whole country.
Since November last year, France has been hit with a number of cases of bird flu, most prominently a spate of outbreaks in the South-West of the country in the spring of this year.
The outbreaks in different parts of the country have been of different strains of bird flu, some highly pathogenic to birds, others less so. ■