Bird Flu Epidemic Hits French Foie Gras Industry

© Tim Graham / Alamy Stock Photo
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It's spreading across Europe.

It's right before Christmas, which means it's the height of foie gras season in France. Unfortunately, thousands of ducks and geese have had to be slaughtered prematurely due to the outbreak of a particularly virulent strain of bird flu.

According to a decree issued by the French Ministry of Agriculture earlier this week, farmers are being asked to prevent contact between wild birds and commercial poultry, there's a ban on "any gathering of live poultry, especially in markets," and a new set of hunting restrictions prevent the release of mallards throughout the country.

The latest case of avian flu in northern France was detected last month. The Guardian reports that the virus was imported by wild ducks traveling across Europe. Last year's flu outbreak cost regional producers €500 million and so far this year, 7,000 "contaminated ducks" have been slaughtered and 4,500 have died from the illness. "Thousands more have been killed or died in neighboring areas and farms have been quarantined," the Guardian reports.

The current outbreak of HGN8 avian flu has spread across Europe with migrating birds—confirmed deaths have been reported in Hungary, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Croatia. In Egypt, the government has found instances of H5N8 in water fowl, in the Ukraine, the virus was found in backyard birds, and in India, water birds—including storks, ducks, and pelicans—at a New Delhi zoo died after contracting the flu.

Meanwhile in the United Kingdom, the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs issued a series of guidelines in an effort to protect poultry from the nefarious disease.

"The Government Chief Vet has declared a Prevention Zone introducing enhanced bio security requirements for poultry and captive birds, helping protect them from a strain of avian flu circulating in mainland Europe," the announcement reads. "The zone covers England and will remain in place for 30 days. Declarations have also been made by the Scottish Government and Welsh Government. Keepers of poultry and other captive birds are now required to keep their birds indoors, or take appropriate steps to keep them separate from wild birds."

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