Avian flu spreads in France, with 41 infected farms, including a first in Vendée

The outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI or avian flu), which has already resulted in the slaughter of around 600,000 and 650,000 poultry in one month in France, continues to progress. “As I speak to you, (…) in France we have 41 outbreaks of contamination in breeding “, announced Julien Denormandie, the Minister of Agriculture at a press conference on Tuesday, January 4.

At the end of last week, the report showed 26 outbreaks in farms, since the observation of the first case in the North at the end of November. Most cases are now recorded in the South West. The Minister believes the situation is better than last winter, when the epizootic was at the origin of nearly 500 breeding outbreaks leading to the slaughter of more than three million poultry, mainly ducks.

“Last year at the same time we were more than sixty” of homes. “It had been many weeks since the spread of the virus was no longer under control at all”, continued Mr. Denormandie.

More than 600,000 poultry slaughtered

Twenty outbreaks are located in the Landes, eight in the North, seven in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques, five in the Gers and one in the Vendée, according to the website of the Ministry of Agriculture. In Vendée, the virus was detected in the town of Beaufou, about twenty kilometers north of La Roche-sur-Yon, in a building housing 12,500 turkeys. The ministry estimated on December 31 that between 600,000 and 650,000 poultry had been slaughtered since the start of the epizootic. He did not provide updated data on Tuesday.

The appearance of this new outbreak in this western region located on certain migratory routes can be worrying insofar as it is also home to many farms, Yann Nédélec, director of Anvol, told Reuters news agency. , French inter-professional grouping of the poultry sector.

“The culling of the birds in the infected building was completed on January 2. The depopulation of the other poultry still present on the site is in progress. Presumably, the origin of the introduction of the virus was made via wild birds », affirms the prefecture of Vendée in a press release Tuesday. “The first visits and analyzes made by veterinarians [autour de l’exploitation concernée] did not detect other sources of contamination ”, adds the prefecture.

Mr. Denormandie also defended the confinement, imposed from the beginning of November, of outdoor poultry to avoid contact with migratory birds carrying the virus. The measure, often experienced as heartbreaking by breeders and denounced by part of the profession, had been decreed in September, in the areas most at risk. “Protective measures were necessary. If we had not taken them, the situation I am describing to you today would be much more dramatic ”, said the minister.

In addition to farms, twenty cases have been identified in wildlife and three in private backyards, according to the ministry. France is affected for the fourth time since 2015 by this virus which does not spare its European neighbors either.

According to Marie-Pierre Pé, director of the Interprofessional Committee of Foie Gras Palmipeds (Cifog), the situation is not as worrying, at this stage, as during the previous crisis, between fall 2020 and spring 2021, when 3.5 million poultry had to be slaughtered to limit the spread of the virus. “We have greatly reduced the number of animals, they are all inside, but we have to go quickly in the race against the virus because it gets easily into farms”, she told Reuters.

Le Monde with AFP and Reuters

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Avian flu spreads in France, with 41 infected farms, including a first in Vendée