Following last summer’s outbreaks in Russia and Kazakhstan, the bird flu epizootic is now spreading in Western Europe.
Dutch authorities slaughtered around 190,000 chickens after a particularly contagious strain of bird flu appeared on at least two poultry farms, agriculture minister Carola Schouten said on Sunday.
Health workers killed 100,000 hens on a farm in Hekendorp, not far from Gouda, in the west of the Netherlands, and 90,000 chickens on a farm in Witmarsum, in the northern Friesland region.
In both cases, authorities suspected "a highly contagious strain of the H5 variant”.
No other poultry farm is located within a one-kilometre radius of the farms, which have now been sanitised "to prevent the spread of the disease," the ministry said.
Avian flu, which spreads mainly through migratory birds, has been detected on several Dutch farms since October.
This week’s mass slaughter comes after authorities imposed preventive containment measures inside the buildings of all commercial poultry farms from October 23, after the discovery of two dead swans that were carrying a highly contagious form of H5N8 avian flu.
In France, a new case of avian flu was detected on Thursday in a pet store located in Yvelines, near Paris, three days after the announcement of a first outbreak in the Haute-Corse department.
Sweden, Ireland and the United Kingdom have also been affected.
The disease can, in rare cases, affect humans with symptoms like high temperature, aching muscles, headache and cough. It can be caught by touching infected birds, or eating not fully cooked poultry.