France confirms EU's first H5N1 bird flu outbreak
A farm, which had more than 11,000 turkeys, has been sealed off and the surviving birds slaughtered.india Updated: Feb 25, 2006 09:00 IST
The European Union's first outbreak of the lethal H5N1 strain of bird flu in commercial poultry was confirmed on Saturday in France, the EU's largest poultry producer.
France's farming ministry said lab tests confirmed H5N1 in turkeys at a farm in the southeast Ain region, where thousands of the birds were found dead on Thursday.
The farm, which had more than 11,000 turkeys, has been sealed off and the surviving birds slaughtered.
The spread of bird flu to commercial stocks in France, which has been working for months to prevent and prepare for an outbreak, served as a sobering sign for other developed countries that consider themselves well protected against the virus.
In an indication of the global impact of the French case, Japan had already on Friday temporarily suspended imports of French poultry, including the delicacy foie gras, meat and other internal organs, according to the Japanese Embassy in Paris.
In 2005, Japan imported 1,510 metric tons of duck and other poultry meat and 377 metric tons of internal organs, including foie gras, from France.
France has some 200,000 farms that raise 900 million birds each year. In 2004, the latest year for which figures were available, the French poultry sector generated more than $3.6 billion in revenues, or more than 20 per cent of total EU production.
Consumers' fears of bird flu have already hit French poultry sales, and the industry could be hobbled if the virus spreads.