As EU veterinarians meet to set a unified strategy to combat the spreading avian flu, Germany took a drastic measure of its own: keeping farmed bird indoors in order to prevent infection from migrating ones.
It's hoped this will reduce the risk of infection
On Thursday, Germany’s Agriculture and Environment Minister Jürgen Trittin announced a ban on free range poultry farming.
"As of today, we are introducing an emergency law to keep as many birds as possible locked in stalls. This decree applies to every German state," Trittin said.
At one of Germany's biggest poultry farms, the Tiemann family farm near Bremen, an eerie quiet reigned after all its birds were forced from their normal outdoor pens into sheds.
'The danger is great'
The Bremen area accounts for more than 40 percent of the entire production of poultry in Germany. As long ago as Sept. 15, worried regional authorities there ordered all poultry to be shut inside.
Andreas Tiemann, 22, whose father set up the farm, said the ban on outdoor rearing was the only way forward.
"We are in favor of birds being shut inside on a national level," he told AFP. "The danger is so great. We have to do whatever we can to ensure that bird flu doesn't get as far as here."
It's not just just Germany that's active: disinfecting a farm in Korea
Normally, the birds at the organic-poultry farm run free all day. But the fields are now deserted and only the muffled sound of clucking could be heard from within the two sheds where the 30,000 birds are now kept.
"The birds don't really notice the difference," Tiemann said. "They are not unhappy."
The penning up of farm chickens in Germany is expected to last until at least Dec. 15, when the migration season for wild birds comes to an end.
Avian migration is considered to be one of the biggest problems in controlling the spread of the virus. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has warned that the seasonal flight of wild birds will probably bring the virus to North Africa in the next three to four weeks.
The FAO is also concerned that veterinarians there will be unable to cope with a bird flu epidemic.
Migrating birds cross national borders every day
Meanwhile, veterinarians from European Union countries were set to meet later Thursday in Brussels to discuss a Europe-wide strategy for preventing an avian flu pandemic.
And next week, EU Health Ministers will gather in London to discuss the latest developments in the spread of the flu, along with plans to combat the virus. Originally, the informal meeting had been planned to discuss a wide range of health issues. However, escalating fears about bird flu have forced officials to focus the meeting on this issue.
Death in Thailand
Currently, the EU has imposed bans on poultry imports from Turkey and Romania, where there have been cases of bird flu. And import bans on Russian poultry goods are also being considered.
Thailand confirmed that another person died of bird flu there on Thursday, with experts pointing out that the real concern is that bird flu could combine with human influenza strains, and mutate into a virus which may be transmitted from person to person.