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H5N8 bird flu virus strain found in French wild ducks

The French farm ministry said on Monday that a severe strain of the H5N8 bird flu virus that has hit several countries in Europe leading to the culling of thousands of poultry was detected in wild ducks in Northern France.

“A first case of highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N8 was confirmed on Nov 26 in the commune of Marck (Pas-de-Calais), on 20 wild ducks used as callers for waterfowl hunting,” it said in a statement, reported Reuters.

The ministry added that local authorities had increased surveillance in the area.

It said that the latest outbreak did not affect domestic farms and that provided no new case was found it should regain its international status of free of highly pathogenic avian flu on December 3.

France, which has the largest poultry flock in the European Union, is still recovering from a severe bird flu epidemic in southwestern France earlier this year which lead to a total halting of duck and geese output in the region and import restrictions from trading partners.

Outbreaks in neighbouring countries including the Netherlands, Switzerland and Germany had prompted the ministry to impose additional precautions at farms and restricted hunting and bird gathering earlier in November.

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