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French farmers resume production, though bird flu still threat

Staff Writer |
French farmers have been allowed to repopulate regions of the South West which were cleared of susceptible domestic birds in a bid to prevent highly pathogenic H5N8 bird flu, which hit the region hard, spreading from farm to farm in late 2016 and early 2017.

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Authorities gassed millions of ducks and other birds in five departments of the South West - the heart of France’s poultry industry - in January and March, in a bid to prevent the spread of the disease, which does not appear to affect humans, but which is devastating and highly contagious to susceptible bird species.

Following the preventative culls, a six week quarantine period was observed, in which birds weren’t allowed back into the affected regions.

From 29th May - a few days before the remaining strict disease-control conditions placed on bird keepers were lifted - farm businesses were allowed to reintroduce goslings and ducklings to the South-West.

Strict biosecurity measures must still be observed until at least March 2018 and the French government said there is still a heightened disease surveillance programme in effect in France, but birds began returning to the departments of Gers, Haute- Garonne, Landes, Pyrénées-Atlantiques and Hautes Pyrénées late last month, after the last case of H5N8 on a farm was reported in late March.

On Monday, France’s agriculture department reduced the disease threat level from “moderate” to “negligible”; France’s “Heightened” risk status was reduced to “moderate” in mid-April.

The government also announced the entry into force of a disease prevention pact signed between agriculture minster Stephane LeFoll and representatives from the poultry industry in April.

Speaking on Monday, LeFoll said, “I praise the involvement of all professionals, from all levels of the supply chain, in the management of this crisis.

They showed courage, rigour and responsibility in agreeing to impose these restrictive measures, such as preventive slaughter.

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