French vaccinate millions of free range birds as farm becomes first victim of bird flu

A farm in eastern France has become the first domestic victim of the H5N1 strain of bird flu in the European Union.

Poultry on the farm of Daniel Clair in the village of Versailleux have been confirmed to have the deadly virus.

Some 400 of the 11,000 birds on the commercial farm have died from the virus and the remainder have been slaughtered.

The poultry were being reared to produce the delicacy foie gras.

Although tests have confirmed H5N1 in wild ducks and swans in the Ain district where Clair lives, his is at present the only farm to have been affected by the lethal virus.

Precautions had apparently been taken against bird flu but the farmer fears his poultry may have contracted the disease from straw infected by the droppings of passing migratory birds.

The farm has now been disinfected; the family are taking the antiviral drug Tamiflu and are now able to leave the farm following a period of quarantine.

France's poultry industry is worth 6 billion euros ($7.14 billion) but poultry sales in France are down by about 30 percent this year and many farmers like Clair are worried about their future.

Japan and Hong Kong have banned all poultry imports from France, while the French government has embarked on a programme to inoculate a million free range ducks and geese along a migratory route on the Atlantic coast of south-west France.

The Dombes wetlands area of France has been declared a no go area in an attempt to keep people away from large flocks of wild birds.

Veterinary experts from more than 50 countries are meeting in Paris to discuss ways to combat the virus.

The two-day meeting is taking place at the World Organisation for Animal Health, which alongside the Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organisation is coordinating the international veterinary response to H5N1.

Participating countries including Iran, Kuwait and Azerbaijan, all fear that they could soon be hit by the virus.

In Nigeria and India people are being encouraged to continue eating poultry products as long as they are well-cooked, amid fears of the collapse of vital poultry industries.

Authorities in Switzerland are are waiting for the results of tests on samples taken from a duck which was found to be a carrier of another H5 virus.

A man in Romania suspected of having contracted bird flu does has been cleared by doctors.

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