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Germany, Denmark step up bird flu controls

Germany's northernmost state is to increase biosecurity measures, as Denmark destroys thousands of German eggs. An highly contagious strain of bird flu is spreading throughout Europe.

The German state of Schleswig-Holstein widened protection measures on Monday to protect against an outbreak of the H5N8 influenza virus among wild birds, which has spread to poultry.

All farms - including smallholdings - will be required to tighten biosecurity, with the use of protective clothing and footwear, and the widespread disinfection of all farm buildings and vehicles used to transport poultry.

Culling continues

Over the weekend, 30,000 chickens were culled as a precaution at a farm close to the northern city of Grumby, which saw an outbreak of the virus. The affected breeder farm is currently being disinfected and cleaned, Schleswig-Holstein's environment ministry said on Monday.

A farm in Grumby

An outbreak was reported near the German city of Grumby

Two smaller poultry farms in the same state and the neighboring Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania were also affected over the weekend, but neither states registered new H5N8 cases on Monday, local officials said.

So far, five German states have seen bird flu outbreaks, including the southern state of Baden-Württemberg, which reported cases around Lake Constance, which is bordered by Switzerland and Austria. The state of Saxony also confirmed the H5N8 virus was detected in a dead heron at a lake near the city of Leipzig.

Denmark takes action

On Monday, Denmark sought to contain its own outbreak among wild birds by ordering a farm to destroy hundreds of thousands of eggs imported from Germany, as a precaution.

Some 300,000 eggs from the farm in Grumby were supplied to a hatchery in the Danish town of Baekke, near Kolding. They are all expected to be destroyed by Tuesday.

Denmark ordered flocks of poultry to be kept indoors from midnight on Tuesday. Several German states have also instigated similar policies for their domestic and commercial livestock.

German Agriculture Minister Christian Schmidt said on Monday that the country was considering a nationwide order to bring all flocks indoors.

Dead duck

The latest bird flu outbreak has infected mostly wild birds

Ahead of a meeting in Brussels, Schmidt said he would consult with other European countries, including the Netherlands, Poland and Denmark, which are also affected.

Bird flu spreads

Meanwhile, Hungary confirmed that three more of its municipalities were now fighting the latest bird flu outbreak, bringing the total to five.

Several countries, including Canada, Israel and Serbia have already placed restrictions on poultry imports from Hungary amid concerns other countries may face similar curbs.

The latest bird flu outbreak comes ahead of the upcoming Christmas season, which is a critical time for sales for European poultry farmers.

The H5N8 pathogen is considered safe for humans but is a significant threat to domestic poultry.

mm/se (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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