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Germany

Bird flu spreads in Germany, sparking fears for holiday meals

Tens of thousands of new cases of bird flu have been reported in Germany, as the disease spreads across Europe. Authorities are concerned about the economic consequences, with poultry in high demand during the holidays.

Germany revealed more cases of a dangerous strain of avian influenza on Saturday, alongside reports that the disease had spread to Switzerland, Austria, Hungary, Poland, the Netherlands, Denmark and Croatia.

The H5N8 virus has affected some 30,000 chickens in the northern German state of Schleswig-Holstein. Authorities said an area of 3 square kilometers (1.2 square miles) around the affected farm had been sealed off.

Berlin has set up a crisis management task force to tackle the issue, after reports also came in from Austria that another large outbreak was suspected in an area along the border with Bavaria.

Authorities urge extreme caution

At the same time, Switzerland has confirmed that a number of dead birds found along Lake Geneva were found to be carrying the H5N8 virus. Bern and Vienna both immediately took steps to contain the disease from spreading further, authorities said.

This particular strain of avian influenza arrived in Europe from South Korea in 2014, brought by migratory waterfowl. Massive culling followed after wild ducks, geese and swans passed the disease to farmed birds like chickens and turkeys.

Authorities have urged extreme caution and care on the part of farmers and food inspectors. The upcoming holiday season will increase the demand for duck, goose and chicken, and the flu outbreak could have serious economic consequences.

Avian influenza spreads easily among domestic poultry, but only certain subtypes - H5N1 and H7N9 - are known to infect humans.

es/cmk (dpa, Reuters)