European Union mulls urgent action over bird flu

Nov 17, 2014, 2:14 AM EST
Chickens feed in a cage at a market in Sanhe, Hebei province on June 18, 2014. Five Asian countries could join China as targets for the H7N9 bird flu virus that has claimed about a hundred lives since it erupted in March 2013, scientists said on June 17.
AFP/Getty Images

The European Commission is to discuss emergency protective measures after a highly contagious strain of bird flu was discovered at a poultry farm in the Netherlands. The BBC writes:

The commission will hold an urgent meeting on Monday to look at how to contain the outbreak.

The Dutch government said the strain, H5N8, could potentially affect humans.

The authorities have already begun destroying 150,000 hens at the infected farm, in the village of Hekendorp.

"This highly pathogenic variant of avian influenza is very dangerous for bird life," the Dutch government said in a statement.

"The disease can be transmitted from animals to humans." The Dutch economics ministry says humans could only be infected through very close contact with infected birds.

The Netherlands imposed a 72-hour ban on transportation of poultry products, including birds, eggs, dung and used straw to and from poultry farms across the country, which is the world’s leading egg exporter. The Guardian reports:

The European Commission said it expected to adopt urgent interim protective measures on Monday to contain the outbreak, including a ban on selling poultry products from the affected areas to EU and third countries.

Between them, Dutch poultry farms sell more than 6bn eggs abroad every year, though it is not known how many of the 697 farms are exporters. Germany is the largest destination, at 75% of all exports, figures published by Rabobank showed.

The Netherlands is also a leading poultry exporter. Agricultural inspectors started destroying the 150,000 chickens at the farm in the village of Hekendorp, and banned poultry transport across the whole of the Netherlands.

The H5N8 strain of bird flu was reported in Germany on 4 November on a farm in the north-eastern state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern after it caused widespread destruction in Asia.