France detects bird flu on vaccinated ducks farm

PARIS (Reuters) -France has detected bird flu on a duck farm in the Vendee region in the west of the country, the farm ministry said on its website, the first such outbreak since France started vaccinating against the virus last year.

The Vendee prefecture said highly pathogenic avian influenza, commonly called bird flu, had been detected on Tuesday on a farm with 8,700 ducks in the town of Notre Dame de Riez. All of them had been vaccinated, it said.

Bird flu, which is carried by migrating wild birds and can then be transmitted between farms, has ravaged flocks around the globe in recent years, disrupting supply, pushing up food prices and raising concern of a risk of human transmission.

To protect itself, France launched a vaccination campaign early last October, targeting ducks only as they can easily transmit the virus without showing symptoms.

The vaccine is not supposed to fully protect birds from catching the disease but to limit its spread and thus avoid massive preventive culls. It comes in addition to standard biosecurity and control measures.

France is the first large exporter to vaccinate poultry against bird flu, braving trade barriers from countries that fear the virus could spread without being noticed.

France had raised the risk level of bird flu to ‘high’ from ‘moderate’ last month after new cases of the disease were detected, forcing poultry farms to keep birds indoors to stem the spread of the highly contagious virus.

So far seven bird flu outbreaks have been detected in France since Nov. 27, the agriculture ministry said on its website, of which five on turkeys, one on laying hens and one on ducks.

(Reporting by Sybille de La Hamaide; Editing by Dominique Vidalon and Susan Fenton)