New measures brought in after seagulls die of bird flu in Normandy

Authorities in Manche have introduced surveillance zones and placed limits on backyard chickens and movement between farms

A seagull on a post against a background of sea and sky
The gulls’ deaths prompted new rules and surveillance to be put in place in Manche
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Two areas of the Manche department in northwest France are under surveillance after two seagulls were found to have died from bird flu last week. The authorities have also brought in new rules for anyone in the areas who keeps birds at home.

The gulls were found in Montmartin-sur-Mer on June 11.

In a statement, the prefecture said: “We are waiting for analysis results to confirm the highly pathogenic nature of the virus identified.”

Authorities stated: “The highly pathogenic avian influenza virus, which is circulating in Europe, is particularly contagious and pathogenic for birds…Mortalities have been observed in the Somme, Pas-de-Calais and Seine-Maritime since mid-May.”

Due to the virus cases on the coast, the prefect has introduced surveillance rules in two zones, with a view to “stopping the spread of the virus and stopping it from appearing on farms”.

The rules of the zones de contrôle temporaire (ZCT, temporary control zones) will be in place for at least 21 days.

They include:

  • All poultry, including backyard poultry, and any other captive birds must be kept indoors or under netting at all times;
  • No live poultry or captive birds shall be removed from any holding, commercial or non-commercial. Exceptions may be possible, after agreement from the Direction Départementale de la Protection des Populations (DDPP) of La Manche, mainly in the context of a direct transfer to a slaughterhouse;
  • The movement of people, domestic animals and vehicles within the farms (commercial or not) must be limited to only strictly necessary movement;
  • Direct on-farm sales of slaughtered poultry and poultry products are prohibited. Farmers may, however, continue their commercial activity by selling directly to consumers at local open-air markets;
  • During the period in which the ZCT is maintained, increased surveillance of the bird population will be carried out;
  • Finally, it is requested to avoid any contact with wild birds.

The rules may be lifted after 21 days only if "no signs suggesting avian influenza are detected in the holdings" and "no new cases occur in wildlife".

"Any detection of a new case may lead to a change in the perimeter of the ZCT and the resulting measures,” the statement said.

Owners with birds are also “encouraged to use dedicated footwear and clothing to access the part of the farm where poultry are kept”, and warned to "monitor your birds daily and, if necessary, report any abnormal behaviour or signs of disease to a veterinarian without delay”.

The prefecture said that “any deaths of wild birds with no apparent cause in the zone must be signalled to the l’Office français de la biodiversité on 02 33 07 40 32”.

It called on anyone who keeps birds, and veterinarians in the area, to remain vigilant.

More information on the measures can be found on the governmental agriculture website here.

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