France says H5N1 bird flu virus confirmed in swans

July 5, 2007

France says H5N1 bird flu virus confirmed in swans

PARIS (Reuters) - Tests have confirmed that three swans found dead in eastern France were killed by the H5N1 bird flu virus, the French agriculture ministry said on Thursday, France's first cases of the disease in over a year.

The ministry said it was increasing its bird flu threat level to "high" from "moderate", and domestic birds across the country would be protected to avoid all contact with wild birds. 

It said on Tuesday it suspected the deadly virus had killed the birds and initiated protective measures in the surrounding area. 

"Michel Barnier, minister of agriculture and fishing, is putting in place the risk prevention measures corresponding to the shift from the 'moderate' level to the 'high' level," the ministry said in a statement. 

France, Europe's biggest poultry producer, had increased its precautions against bird flu in June, saying the risk of the disease hitting the country had gone up after it was found in a number of wild birds in Germany. 

The disease was also found in the Czech Republic last month. 

Last year, some 13 European Union member states had confirmed cases of bird flu -- Germany, Austria, Denmark, Italy, Greece, Britain, the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, France and Hungary. 

In France the virus was found in more than 60 wild birds and at a farm with 11,000 turkeys. It had not been detected in the country since April 2006. 

More than 30 countries have reported outbreaks in the past year, in most cases involving wild birds such as swans. 

Globally, the H5N1 virus has killed nearly 200 people out of over 300 known cases, according to the World Health Organisation. None of the victims were from Europe. 


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