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Bird Flu Reaches First EU Poultry Farm

DW staff (jdk)
February 25, 2006

The H5N1 strain of bird flu has been confirmed on a turkey farm in France. Some 11,000 turkeys have now been culled; politicians are repeatedly urging the public not to panic.

This fate may hit more and more poultry throughout EuropeImage: AP

French President Jacques Chirac was informed that the H5N1 strain of the avian flu virus had been confirmed at a commercial poultry farm near Lyon just hours before he was supposed to inaugurate an annual agriculture show in Paris.

Around 11,000 turkeys had to be slaughtered while the farmer and five family members were given Tamiflu as a precaution. In addition, the family was taken to a nearby hospital and put under quarantine.

Nevertheless, Chirac appealed to the French press not to create an atmosphere of alarm.

"There is no interest in provoking a psychosis, a panic, it's scandalous," he said at the agriculture fair that was conspicuously absent of any poultry not withstanding the piece of chicken that the president was eating to demonstrate the safety of French fowl.

Poultry bans would do immense harm

Frankreich Präsident Jacques Chirac
French President Jacques Chirac appealed for calm after bird flu confirmationImage: AP

Some 200,000 farms raise over 900 million animals annually in France, generating more than three billion euros ($3.6 bill.) in revenues, making it Europe's largest poultry exporter. The EU is concerned that trading partners could overreact and place bans on imports from European countries.

Japan has temporarily prohibited all French poultry imports. Tokyo is also ready to halt the entry of chickens, turkeys and other edible birds from the Netherlands if the Dutch government launches a preventive vaccination plan for some of its flocks.

The EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson, also at the agriculture show in Paris, told Reuters such import bans would adversely affect the European Union.

"Whilst I understand their decision to take preliminary measures, any action must be proportionate. There can be a tendency to overreact and this can bring us much danger," the EU commissioner said.

German farmers also concerned

Geflügel im Supermarkt
Concerns are growing that chicken filets cannot be exportedImage: picture-alliance/ dpa

Although the occurrence of the H5N1 strain in France is the only one thus far on an EU domestic farm, Germany's farming association, DBV, fears export bans taken against its western neighbor could unjustifiably be carried over to Germany and the EU as a whole.

The DBV's spokesman Michael Lohse told the weekly Tagesspiegel am Sonntag that the EU is frequently viewed as a single entity.

"The case in France could have affects on our exports," Lohse said.

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