The number of cases of high pathogen avian influenza in the south east of France has risen to 15.
The epidemic has now spread from farms near the border with Spain to Limoges, a distance of over 400 kilometres. So far, tens of thousands of ducks, chicken, guinea fowl and other poultry have been culled while 15 non-EU countries have banned either all poultry and poultry products, breeding material from France.
The French service for animal health Anses has stressed that the serotypes involved can’t infect humans. “The serotypes here are European and very different from the ones in Asia which have mutated to people. Therefore, eating chicken, foie gras or other poultry products doesn’t pose any risk to human health,” Anses said during a press conference at the department of agriculture at just over a week before Christmas.
The development of the various serotypes puzzles the authorities. At the infected farms, three different kind of AI are discovered, H5N1, H5N2 and H5N9. “It has not happened before that avian influenza has spread so rapidly and with so many different serotypes at the same time,” Dr Bernard Vallat, director general of the World Organization for Animal Health OIE said earlier.
According to Vallet, one possibility is that the virus has mutated from an undiscovered low pathogen serotype to various highly pathogen ones. Another possibility is that different serotypes had an exchange of genes.