More than 13 million poultry birds culled in France due to bird flu

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More than 13 million poultry birds have been culled in France since the end of November, an official at the agriculture ministry told Reuters on Monday, as France’s worst bird-flu crisis grew rapidly.

France has recorded a rare upsurge in outbreaks of the highly contagious virus, believed to have been brought to the country by migrating wild birds. Cullings have spiked since the virus reached the largest French poultry-producing regions.

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By April 8, 1,230 outbreaks had been recorded on farms since the first was detected on November 26, according to a farm ministry website. That represented a rise of more than 10 percent in eight days.

The spread of bird flu has raised concern among governments and the poultry industry due to the devastation it can cause to flocks, the possibility of trade restrictions and a risk of human transmission.

The extremely aggressive and highly contagious H5N1 strain has been spreading quickly in Europe in recent months, prompting massive culls in several countries, notably Italy.

Bird flu is spread mostly through feces of infected wild birds. It cannot be passed to humans through the eating of poultry products, although there have been occasional cases of humans catching strains of the disease through close contact with infected birds.

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