Italy Takes Steps to Control Bird Flu After Outbreaks, EU Says

A virulent strain of bird flu was found on three farms in Italy, spurring authorities to kill poultry and restrict movement of some animals to stem the spread of the disease in the country’s first outbreak since 2000.

The strain of highly pathogenic avian influenza was discovered on farms in the region of Emilia-Romagna, in northeast Italy this month, the European Commission said in a statement today. Italian authorities are killing birds and setting up protection and surveillance zones, which restrict movement of poultry and poultry products in eastern Emilia-Romagna and southeastern Veneto, according to the report.

Highly pathogenic strains of avian flu can spread rapidly and be fatal for birds, according to the Paris-based World Organization for Animal Health, known as OIE. The disease can affect domesticated animals such as chickens and turkeys, as well as wild and pet birds. The most recent highly pathogenic outbreaks in the EU were in 2010 in Romania and Bulgaria, according to the OIE.

“It is safe to eat poultry meat or eggs marketed in the EU as all affected flocks and their eggs are destroyed immediately,” said the EU Commission, the bloc’s administrative arm. “In any case, cooking such products eliminates any possible risk.”

The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control “considers that the risk of avian influenza transmission to humans is low,” the commission said.

Two of the outbreaks occurred on egg farms with a total population of 700,000 laying hens, and the third case was on a turkey farm with almost 20,000 birds, the commission said. Italy is the EU’s third-biggest producer of eggs and ranks fifth for chicken meat output, according to data from the bloc.

While Italy has had multiple cases of less virulent strains bird flu since 1997, this was the first highly pathogenic outbreak in more than a decade, according to a presentation from Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale delle Venezie, a public veterinary research institute in Legnaro, Italy. About 11 countries have reported outbreaks this year, including China, India, Australia and Mexico, according to the OIE.

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