FRANCE has begun a programme of preventative poultry and waterfowl culling in some regions after its 61st case of highly pathogenic H5N8 avian influenza was confirmed on 1 January.

Case numbers jumped over the Christmas period prompting officials to act with a more stringent culling policy after the disease appeared to spread into poultry-dense regions in the south-west of the country.

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More than 200,000 ducks have been slaughtered with the culling of another 400,000 underway in an attempt to halt disease spread.

The outbreak is centred in the Landes department, which has recorded 48 of the outbreaks. The region hosts a large number of goose and duck farms.

In badly hit municipalities, authorities have ordered all poultry to be slaughtered within 1km of a confirmed outbreak whether birds are housed or not.


Some farmers unions have complained the preventative culling is “ineffective and morally unacceptable”.

Highly pathogenic H5N8 avian influenza has hit most European countries this winter, with the virus concentrated to date on northwestern Europe.

The UK has reported 19 outbreaks to date, including the first case of bird flu in Northern Ireland since 1998.