Test results are due to confirm later today whether turkeys on a farm in eastern France have contracted the most deadly form of bird flu. The farmer raised the alarm after an unusually high number of his birds died unexpectedly. In an interview a few days earlier he had said he could not envisage how 12,000turkeys inside a building could be contaminated. “This is an industrial facility, there’s no contact with the outside world,” he said. If confirmed this would be the first outbreak among farmed birds in the European Union. The farm, surrounded by a security zone, is in the same region of Ain where wild ducks have already tested positive for H5N1. France is home to the EU’s biggest poultry sector, worth six billion euros a year. The government has pledged another 52 million euros in aid – mostly to help farmers and companies cope.
Two million will be spent on promotion after consumers lost their appetites for poultry. Slovakia has become the latest EU country to be added to the list of those where H5N1 has reared its head, with a falcon and a grebe testing positive. Brussels has approved a plan to vaccinate thousands of birds in specific high risk areas. Meanwhile Germany has decided to boost stocks of anti-viral drugs to allow a fifth of the human population to be covered if the disease mutates into a form that is easily transferred between people.