PARIS, Dec 21 (Reuters) - The spread of bird flu has accelerated in the past weeks in France, the European Union’s second largest poultry producer, the farm ministry said on Wednesday, raising concern of further shortages.
France had already detected a rise in bird flu outbreaks over the summer after seeing its worst wave of the disease last season that lead to the culling of about 20 million chickens, ducks and turkeys and a sharp fall in poultry and foie gras output.
“The health situation with regard to highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in France has deteriorated since August and has worsened in recent weeks,” the farm ministry said on its website on Wednesday.
By Dec. 20, 217 bird flu outbreaks had been detected on French farms, up from 100 on Dec. 2, and the number of cases has also risen sharply in wildlife, the ministry said.
French Agriculture Minister Marc Fesneau is due to travel to the region on Thursday to put forward a vaccination strategy to fight the disease.
More than half of the outbreaks on farms are concentrated in the Pays de la Loire region with a high density of poultry.
France has been testing vaccines in web-footed birds such as ducks and geese. It hopes to convince other EU member states to have a common approach as poultry producers fear trade restrictions often imposed on meat from vaccinated animals.
Bird flu has been spreading globally, ravaging flocks, with the toll at more than 100 million birds in Europe and the United States alone.
Although the virus is harmless in food, its spread is a concern for 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.
France had put the country on “high” alert for bird flu last month forcing poultry farms to keep birds indoors. It had also imposed special measures including preventive cullings in certain regions to prevent the spread of the disease. (Reporting by Sybille de La Hamaide; editing by David Evans)