France has detected a case of highly contagious H5N8 bird flu on a duck farm in the southwest of the country, the agriculture ministry confirmed Friday.
This is the first outbreak of the virus on a farm in the European Union’s biggest poultry breeder since a case of H5N8 was confirmed among wild ducks in Normandy last week, the ministry said.
The virus killed 2,000 out of a flock of 5,000 ducks on a farm in the Tarn region, and the remaining birds were to be culled, the Reuters news agency reported.
France was one day away from attempting to reclaim its international status as free of highly pathogenic avian flu, according to Reuters. The latest case means a ban remains in place preventing France from exporting poultry or foie gras beyond Europe.
Earlier this year, a severe bird flu epidemic in the southwest of the country led to import restrictions from trading partners and a 25% drop in duck and geese output from France’s foie gras-producing region.
Foie gras is a traditional holiday staple in France, and the industry had warned of shortages and soaring prices over the festive season.
Incidents of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) have increased across Europe and Asia. The World Organization for Animal Health claimed that Europeans should expect more avian flu cases this season.
Deputy Director General of the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) Matthew Stone told Reuters that North America, especially the United States where bird flu last year led to the death of about 50 million poultry, should also prepare for new cases.
“From the level of exposure that we have seen to date I would expect more detections, hopefully only in wild birds but it is certainly possible that the presence of this virus in wild birds will create an opportunity for exposure to domestic poultry,” Stone said.