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H5N8 bird flu strain discovered in farms in Cloppenburg in Germany's Lower Saxony

The deadly H5N8 flu strain has been discovered in birds across Europe, probably spread by wild species. Lower Saxony is a major center for poultry farming in Germany.

Bird flu virus H5N8 has been discovered on two farms in Germany's Lower Saxony, the state Ministry of Agriculture announced on Monday.

It ordered tens of thousands of turkeys be killed in the county of Cloppenburg, after the Friedrich Loeffler Institute identified the variant.

The discovery came after 10,000 turkeys were killed in Oldenburg district and 12,000 animals killed in the district of Vechta.

State agricultural minister Christian Meyer said it was unclear how the virus had entered the closed turkey sheds, but authorities were investigating.

The animals were to be gassed to death and their bodies incinerated to prevent the spread of the virus.

Lower Saxony is a major center for poultry farming in Germany.

In the district of Northeim, 18 chickens and six ducks were found to have the same strain.

Over the past few months the virus has spread throughout Europe and Asia, probably carried by wild migratory birds. The World Health Organization found that while it was unlikely there would be human infection with the strain, it could not be excluded. It is, however, fatal for birds.

The strain had also been detected in wild birds in Lower Saxony, most recently in a dead silver gull in Hanover.

Thirteen other European countries have reported detections of the virus since October.

On Monday Greece reported finding the strain in a wild swan in the Evros river delta and on Thursday Britain reported the discovery of a wild bird with the virus.

aw/jm (dpa, AFP)

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