Dutch authorities have culled some 190,000 chickens after a highly contagious strain of bird flu broke out at least two poultry farms, the agriculture ministry said Sunday. Health workers slaughtered around 100,000 hens at a poultry farm at Hekendorp outside Gouda while 90,000 chicks were culled at Witmarsum, in northern Friesland.
In both cases "a highly contagious strain of the H5 variant" was suspected, the ministry said in a statement. There were no other poultry farms within a one-kilometre radius of the outbreaks, it added."Both farms were cleared to prevent further spread of the disease," the ministry said.
Seasonal bird flu has been detected at various farms around the Netherlands since October, blamed mainly on migratory birds. Dutch Agriculture Minister Carola Schouten on October 23 imposed preventative indoor containment on all commercial poultry farms after two dead swans were discovered carrying the highly contagious H5N8 variety of bird flu. The new measures come as the Netherlands also battles the second wave of COVID-19 which continued to infect around 6,000 people a day.
Earlier this month, authorities found bird flu outbreaks at two poultry farms and the same strain - H5N8 - has also infected chickens and wild birds in north Germany. A farm in the eastern Dutch town of Puiflijk and another nearby have culled 200,000 chickens.
Chickens are also infected at a small poultry farm in Nordfriesland, part of Germany's Schleswig-Holstein state. Health experts say people should avoid touching sick or dead birds, and chicken and eggs are safe to eat if cooked thoroughly, as that kills the virus. A poultry farm in Frodsham, north-west England, also has cases: a cull of 13,000 birds was ordered there on Monday.
Earlier this week almost 1 million chickens were culled in the Japanese prefecture of Kagawa over two new outbreaks of bird flu on the island of Shikoku, Japanese media reported on Friday. On Thursday, media reported that a large number of birds had died at two farms in Kagawa. Further tests confirmed that they had been infected with bird flu, as Japanese authorities discovered a sixth and seventh outbreak in just the last several weeks.
Meanwhile, Belgium has detected an outbreak of bird flu, leading authorities to order all poultry farmers and individual bird owners to keep the animals confined, the country's food safety agency AFSCA said earlier this month. Avian influenza has recently spread to western Europe after outbreaks in Russia and Kazakhstan this summer.
A smaller cull occurred at a farm in Kent, in the south-east, where the H5N2 avian influenza strain was detected last week. H5N8 has been detected in migratory birds from Russia. A huge cull was carried out on farms in Russia's western Kostroma region late last month, to contain an outbreak. The Dutch farms affected are just outside Nijmegen, 30km (19 miles) from the German border.