The new avian flu crisis raises the question of vaccination

No truce for confectioners for the bird flu epizootic. It continues to grow in France, in particular in the Landes, where twenty-four outbreaks have been detected. Across the country, the count has now reached forty-six cases, according to official data released Thursday, January 6. While the southwest of the country has already suffered three episodes of avian influenza since 2015, the subject of animal vaccination is now on the table.

The Ministry of Agriculture sounded the alarm on November 27, 2021, after the first discovery of an outbreak of H5N1 virus infection in a professional farm. The poultry farm concerned, located in the town of Warhem (North), near the Belgian border, had 160,000 laying hens. Other farms were then affected in this department. In total, the veterinary services have identified eight, but the incident seems to be confined to this area.

Apart from another home recently discovered in Vendée, the bulk of the crisis is once again taking place in the south-west, a region with a high density of poultry farms and especially ducks. The H5N1 virus has appeared in the Gers, the Pyrenees-Orientales and especially in the Landes. As early as November 5, 2021, in the face of the progression of the epizootic in neighboring countries, the Ministry of Agriculture had set the risk of bird flu “high”. A threshold that forces all farmers to strictly confine their poultry, limiting derogations as much as possible.

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

Disputes in the field

The measure has raised challenges on the ground. Two agricultural unions, the Confédération paysanne and the Movement for the Defense of Family Farmers (Modef), as well as six associations, have asked the Council of State for the suspension of the bird flu decrees, fearing the endangerment of livestock farming in the midst of air in France. An appeal dismissed on December 24, 2021.

The Minister of Agriculture, Julien Denormandie, defended the confinement of poultry intended to avoid contact with migratory birds carrying the virus, during a press conference on Tuesday, January 4. “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, pointing out that there was “35% fewer farms affected compared to the year [2020] ». During the previous epizootic, between December 2020 and May 2021, nearly 500 farms were contaminated and around 3.5 million birds, primarily ducks, had to be eliminated. He cited, on the contrary, the situation in Italy, where the epidemic is soaring, with 270 outbreaks identified.

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The new avian flu crisis raises the question of vaccination