January 10, 2017 / 11:55 AM / 7 months ago

France extends duck cull zone amid further bird flu outbreaks

Workers gather ducks to be culled in Latrille, France, January 6, 2017, after France ordered a massive cull of ducks in three regions most affected by a severe outbreak of bird flu as it tries to contain the virus which has been spreading quickly over the past month.Regis Duvignau

PARIS (Reuters) - France on Tuesday widened an area in which mass culling of ducks is to take place as new cases of bird flu were confirmed in the southwest, the country's main foie gras producing region.

The government had ordered last week the slaughter of all free range ducks, as well as geese, in part of the southwest in a push to halt the spread of the severe H5N8 bird flu virus.

In a decree published in the government's official journal, France listed 187 districts as covered by the preventative cull, compared with 150 in the initial order last week.

France had as of Monday confirmed 109 outbreaks of the H5N8 virus on poultry farms, according to the farm ministry, compared to around 90 when culling of birds began last Thursday.

A group representing producers of foie gras, the delicacy made from duck or goose liver, last week estimated that at least 800,000 ducks would be slaughtered out of a total of 1.3 million birds that were in the initial zone.

A farm ministry spokesman said the extension of the zone was in response to new bird flu cases, and that this could increase the number of animals culled. He declined to give an estimate as to how many could end up being culled.

Southwestern France was the center of a severe outbreak of bird flu a year ago, related to other strains of the virus, which led authorities to halt foie gras output for several months in a move that producers say cost them 500 million euros ($528.95 million).

The H5N8 strain, which is deadly for poultry but has not been found in humans, has spread across Europe since late last year, leading to the slaughter of some farm flocks and the confinement of poultry indoors.

Different bird flu strains have also spread in Asia in recent weeks leading to the slaughter of millions of birds in South Korea and Japan, and some human infections in China.

Reporting by Gus Trompiz and Sybille de La Hamaide; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta

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