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France On High Alert As Bird Flu Virus Spreads In Europe

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The French government has put the entire country on high alert for bird flu as the virus spreads across Europe, the agriculture ministry said on Friday.

The move will extend a requirement to keep poultry flocks indoors, a measure already implemented in certain areas since September.

"Since the beginning of August, 130 bird flu cases or clusters have been detected in wild animals or on farms in Europe," the ministry said in a statement, adding that three cases had been identified among backyard birds in northeast France.

"Reinforced prevention measures will therefore be implemented to protect poultry farms."

Keeping Flocks Indoors

The requirement to keep flocks indoors will be adapted, however, to take into account production practices such as free-range farming, the ministry said.

Elsewhere in Europe, Dutch authorities last week ordered commercial farms to keep all flocks inside after bird flu was reported on a farm.

France's measures will not threaten the bird flu-free status the country secured in early September after a previous wave of bird flu, the ministry added.

France culled about 3 million birds last winter in its southwestern duck-breeding region as it grappled with the spread of the virus from wild birds to poultry flocks.

In March, France allowed poultry farms in southwestern areas hit by a severe strain of avian influenza to resume production after a sharp fall in new cases of the disease.

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