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VIENNA (Reuters) - Austrian poultry will be allowed outdoors as of Saturday as the threat from bird flu is fading, the country's health ministry said, lifting a restriction put in place more than two months ago.
Austria said in January that it was ordering all poultry be kept indoors after the highly pathogenic H5N8 virus was found in dead wild birds near its borders with Germany and Switzerland, and other cases were reported in the region.
The virus, which is deadly for birds but has not been found in humans, has spread across Europe and the Middle East since late last year, leading to the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of poultry, but the threat appears to be receding.
"A significant improvement in the situation has been observed since the beginning of March 2017, both in Austria and abroad," the Austrian health ministry said in a statement on Thursday, echoing recent comments by France.
"The Ministry for Health and Women is therefore lifting the order to keep poultry indoors as of Saturday, March 25," it added.
Other measures aimed at preventing the spread of the disease, such as requirements to protect the animals' food and water sources from wild birds, would remain in place, it added.
Reporting by Francois Murphy; Editing by Dale Hudson