Safety board officials have culled 3,000 ducks at a poultry farm in Lunteren after identifying another case of bird flu.
In an outbreak last week, also in the Gelderland town, 5,000 laying hens were killed, as well as an unspecified number at seven other locations less than one kilometre away from the affected farm.
There are some 256 poultry farms within a 10-kilometre range of the latest farm to be hit but it is not known how many fall within the one kilometre culling zone.
Lunteren has the highest density of poultry farms in the country and farm minister Hans Staghouwer has described the current situation as ‘extremely worrying’, given the new outbreak’s location, and said it will have ‘enormous impact’ on a lot of people.
So far over 3.5 million birds have been culled since the outbreak began last October and the disease has been identified on 55 farms.
The Netherlands has around 1,700 poultry farms, half of which produce eggs – totalling some 10 billion eggs a year.
Research is ongoing to identify the strain of the virus responsible for the latest outbreak, but recent infections in the Netherlands have been identified as the H5N1 variant, which has been present in Europe since 2005. It is spread by wild birds, large numbers of which have been found dead or dying in the countryside and on beaches.
In Zeeland, where hundreds of carcasses are littering the beaches, the authorities are stepping up warnings to beachgoers not to touch the animals or let their dogs carry them around.
‘They don’t seem to be aware the disease is contagious for both animals and people and just swim among them or spread their towel next to a dying animal,’ Jolanda Lichtenberg of animal welfare organisation Dierenwelzijn Walcheren told local broadcaster Omroep Zeeland.
* An earlier version of this article wrongly identified the H5N8 variant of the virus as responsible for the latest outbreak.
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