Bird flu risk “negligible”: France

08-11-2006 | |

France has classified the risk of its domestic poultry flock catching bird flu from migratory wildfowl as negligible, according to the country’s Environment Ministry.

As the northern hemisphere’s autumn migration of birds towards warmer wintering grounds comes to a close, officials said there was no need to change the bird flu alert rating from the current level of “negligible 2”, the second lowest level.
“By now in early November, we can consider the bulk of the migration that’s come from northern and eastern Europe, is practically finished,” Patrice Blanchet, senior official at the Environment Ministry, told a news conference.
France’s alert system, developed by its national food safety agency AFSSA, evaluates the risk to domestic poultry from infection by the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus from migrating birds, but not the risk of potential infection from either legal or illegal commercial trade.
Under the system, if alert level four was reached, poultry in certain high-risk areas could be confined. A level four alert could be deemed necessary if H5N1 was detected in migrating birds.
Although essentially an animal disease, bird flu has infected 256 people worldwide since late 2003, killing 152 of them, according to the latest statistics from the World Health Organisation.
France detected its first case of H5N1 in a wild duck in February this year and within days the virus had spread to a turkey farm.
Although more cases in wild birds were discovered, there were no further farm outbreaks and the order to keep poultry locked up was lifted in May.

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