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Thousands of turkeys culled after bird flu found on German farm

Cases of H5N8 bird flu have been confirmed in the German states of Lower Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt. About 16,000 turkeys will be culled in one of Europe's major poultry production regions.

The Environment Ministry in Saxony-Anhalt announced Thursday that for the first time two cases of H5N8 bird flu had been found in the eastern German state. The virus was found in a dead swan in the Jerichower Land area and a small poultry farm in the region of Harz, according to the Friedrich Löffler Institute, which addresses farm animal health and welfare.

Deutschland Ausbruch der Vogelgrippe - Absperrung in Schleswig-Holstein (picture-alliance/dpa/C. Rehder)

Bird flu cases are spreading throughout Germany

"Due to the new risk situation, we have immediately decided that poultry must be kept in their sheds, however, exceptions are possible in some individual cases," Environment Minister for Saxony-Anhalt Claudia Dalbert said.

In Lower Saxony, a case of H5N8 was confirmed at a commercial farm in Cloppenburg, the state's Agriculture Ministry said.

Some 16,000 turkeys had been ordered killed as a precaution when it was confirmed the flu was of the H5 strain. A prohibited zone has been set up with a radius of at least three kilometers (1.8 miles) around the farm and further birds within one kilometer may also have to be killed.

Lower Saxony is one of Germany's most important suppliers of poultry and eggs. According to local officials, there are more than 13 million animals farmed in the Cloppenburg region alone.

Combating the spread

The virus was first reported in Germany earlier in November and with the addition of Saxony-Anhalt and Lower Saxony has now been detected in 12 German states. It is spreading rapidly throughout northern Europe, probably being carried by wildfowl that do not show any symptoms.

Authorities have responded with restrictions on the transport of certain products from farm to farm.

While research suggests the H5N8 virus is not dangerous to humans or other mammals, some authorities have marked off areas where domestic animals are not allowed to roam, hoping to counter the spread of the virus by preventing infected dung sticking to animals' fur or paws.

se/sms (dpa, Reuters AFP)

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