Outbreaks of bird flu continue to spread across Europe in recent days, with the first outbreak in France reported to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).

The outbreak was reported along the northern coast of the country, in a region less than 30km from the port of Calais.

The case of the highly pathogenic avian influenza virus was confirmed in wild birds on November 26, following the discovery of some dead decoy ducks used as callers for hunting waterfowl.

Meanwhile, the fist case of the disease was also reported in Finland where a number of tufted ducks were found dead in the south of the country.

Cases of the disease have been reported across 11 European countries, figures from the OIE show.

Recent outbreaks in Sweden, Finland, Germany, France and the Netherlands have meant that a total of 26,861 birds died or had to be destroyed because of the disease.

Outbreaks have been reported in a mixture of wild birds and commercial poultry flocks, with cases reported in flocks, of over 10,000 birds, of fattening ducks and turkeys in the Netherlands and Germany.

Figures from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine show that number of bird flu outbreaks confirmed in poultry flocks has increased to 24 across five different European countries.

The current list of wild birds affected by the disease include tufted ducks, wild geese, wild swans, buzzards and the common magpie to name a few, according to the Department.

To date, no human infections with this virus have been reported worldwide and the risk of transmission of the disease to the general public in EU/EEA countries is considered to be very low, the Department said.

Danger to the Irish Poultry Industry

The danger levels of the disease spreading westward and reaching Irish shores is increasing, according to Chairman of the IFA’s Poultry Committee Nigel Renaghan.

However, Renaghan believes that we should see outbreaks of the disease in England or Scotland prior to it reaching the island of Ireland.

Contact with wild birds provides the biggest threat to poultry flocks contracting the disease, the poultry farmer from Co. Monaghan said.

“My opinion is that if we see outbreaks in England or Scotland then free range and organic birds should be housed immediately as they are the most at risk.

“Poultry farmers need to keep on top of their bio-security measures to minimise the possibility of the disease,” he said.

This disease is going to be a on-going problem for poultry farmers across Europe for the foreseeable future, he said.