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HAMBURG (Reuters) - The culling of about 77,000 turkeys, chickens and ducks is underway after bird flu of the highly contagious H5N8 strain was found on farms in a major poultry production region in the north German state of Lower Saxony, authorities said on Tuesday.
On three farms where H5N8 was found and three others which had contact with them the culling of 55,000 birds was started over the Christmas weekend and should be completed on Tuesday, the Lower Saxony agriculture ministry said in a statement.
Another case of H5N8 bird flu was confirmed on a fourth farm in the state's Oldenburg region on Tuesday and around 22,000 turkeys there will also be culled, the Lower Saxony ministry added later.
A 72 hour standstill order has been issued banning the sale and transport of poultry from the latest areas involved, the ministry said.
The contagious H5N8 strain has been found in more than 500 wild birds in Germany in recent weeks. Outbreaks on farms have been rare after the government introduced tough sanitary rules to prevent infection by wild birds, including orders to keep poultry indoors in high-risk regions.
Several European countries and Israel have found cases of H5N8 bird flu in the past few weeks and some ordered poultry flocks be kept indoors to prevent the disease spreading. France has widened high-risk restrictions to the entire country after the detection of several cases of the H5N8 strain.
South Korea has mobilized its armed forces to help in its biggest-ever poultry cull as the spread of a highly contagious strain bird flu continued, with another 1.6 million birds ordered to be destroyed in affected areas.
Reporting by Michael Hogan, Editing by Alexandra Hudson