France detects first bird flu outbreak in 8 years

Bird Flu Is Making Your Breakfast Expensive

PARIS (Reuters) -- France, the European Union's biggest agricultural producer, reported its first outbreak of the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus in eight years after detecting it in a backyard in a southwestern region home to many foie gras and poultry producers.

The highly pathogenic H5N1 virus killed 22 chickens out of 32 kept in a family backyard at Biras in the Perigord region, officials said.

Ministers asked France's health and safety agency to evaluate the strain's degree of danger to humans, Agriculture Minister Stephane Le Foll told reporters, insisting there was no risk of transmission by eating food.

The outbreak comes just before demand for foie gras, produced from duck or goose liver, peaks over the year-end holiday season, but officials play down any impact.

"This virus has no effect as far as consuming poultry meat or anything that comes from poultry products is concerned -- I am thinking particularly about foie gras since we are approaching times of high consumption," Le Foll told reporters.

Sales of French foie gras were worth around 2 billion euros ($2.1 billion) at the wholesale level last year.

Japan is the largest importer of French foie gras.

It is the first case of H5N1 reported in the EU since outbreaks in Bulgaria and Romania detected in March.

A farm ministry official said a monitoring zone of up to a 10 kilometer (6.2 miles) radius had been set up around the site, encompassing several poultry farms.

An annual monitoring check showed animals at two poultry farms in the region had developed bird flu antibodies without showing clinical signs of the disease. Tests were under way to see whether these were H5N1 ones, he said.

Highly pathogenic H5N1 bird flu first infected humans in 1997 during a poultry outbreak in Hong Kong.

Since its re-emergence in 2003 and 2004, H5N1 has spread from Asia to Europe and Africa, causing millions of poultry infections, several hundred human cases and many human deaths.

However, the ministry official said first indications showed the strain found in France was different from the Asian one.

France's largest poultry producer LDC dismissed the impact for the sector.

"Avian flu is part of our business. This is only one backyard and 30 poultry, and France is very well organized," LDC Chief Executive Denis Lambert told reporters.

Related -- History of bird flu outbreaks:

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History of bird flu outbreaks
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France detects first bird flu outbreak in 8 years
Thomas 'Tom' Vilsack, secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), speaks during an interview in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, June 8, 2015. Government spending to fight the worst U.S. bird flu outbreak and compensate farmers for their losses will exceed the $410 million so far budgeted and may top a half-billion dollars, Vilsack said. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Indian workers spread disinfectant after an operation to cull chickens at Venkateshwara Hatcheries in Thoroor village in Ranga Reddy district, some 55 kilometers from Hyderabad on April 15, 2015. Five chicks were found to be infected with H5N1 avian influenza on regular testing of samples belonging to the farm of a poultry farmer Srinivas Reddy. The authorities ordered the culling of 150,000 birds in a kilometre radius on poultry farms, although no cases of human infections were identified so far, according to Ranga Reddy district officials. AFP PHOTO / Noah SEELAM (Photo credit should read NOAH SEELAM/AFP/Getty Images)
Indian workers spread disinfectant after an operation to cull chickens at Venkateshwara Hatcheries in Thoroor village in Ranga Reddy district, some 55 kilometers from Hyderabad on April 15, 2015. Five chicks were found to be infected with H5N1 avian influenza on regular testing of samples belonging to the farm of a poultry farmer Srinivas Reddy. The authorities ordered the culling of 150,000 birds in a kilometre radius on poultry farms, although no cases of human infections were identified so far, according to Ranga Reddy district officials. AFP PHOTO / Noah SEELAM (Photo credit should read NOAH SEELAM/AFP/Getty Images)
Indian health workers dump bags of dead chickens after a culling operation at Venkateshwara Hatcheries in Thoroor village in Ranga Reddy district, some 55 kilometers from Hyderabad on April 15, 2015. Five chicks were found to be infected with H5N1 avian influenza on regular testing of samples belonging to the farm of a poultry farmer Srinivas Reddy. The authorities ordered the culling of 150,000 birds in a kilometre radius on poultry farms, although no cases of human infections were identified so far, according to Ranga Reddy district officials. AFP PHOTO / Noah SEELAM (Photo credit should read NOAH SEELAM/AFP/Getty Images)
Indian health workers carry dead chickens in bags after a culling operation at Venkateshwara Hatcheries in Thoroor village in Ranga Reddy district, some 55 kilometers from Hyderabad on April 15, 2015. Five chicks were found to be infected with H5N1 avian influenza on regular testing of samples belonging to the farm of a poultry farmer Srinivas Reddy. The authorities ordered the culling of 150,000 birds in a kilometre radius on poultry farms, although no cases of human infections were identified so far, according to Ranga Reddy district officials. AFP PHOTO / Noah SEELAM (Photo credit should read NOAH SEELAM/AFP/Getty Images)
Dutch State Secretary Henk Bleker (C) puts on a mask during a visit to a turkey farm affected by a bout of the bird flu virus in Kelpen-Oler on March 19, 2012. All 42,700 turkeys at the farm will be slaughtered. AFP PHOTO / ANP MARCEL VAN HOORN netherlands out (Photo credit should read MARCEL VAN HOORN/AFP/Getty Images)
EAGLE GROVE, IA - MAY 17: A gate blocks the entrance of a farm operated by Daybreak Foods which has been designated 'bio security area' on May 17, 2015 near Eagle Grove, Iowa. Daybreak Foods is one of several large-scale commercial poultry facilities is Iowa reported to have been hit with a highly pathogenic strain of avian influenza which has forced poultry producers to kill off millions of birds in an attempt to stifle the spread of the illness. A road leading up to the front of the farm has been closed to outside traffic with a checkpoint established. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
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