PARIS Local authorities in France confirmed on Monday an outbreak of severe bird flu in the Deux-Sevres administrative department in the west of the country, an area previously unaffected by a recent spate of bird flu cases.
Laboratory tests confirmed the presence of H5N8 avian influenza among backyard birds and at a poultry farm in two rural districts near the western town of Niort, the Deux-Sevres prefecture said in a statement.
The H5N8 strain of the disease is highly contagious among birds and has spread in a number of European countries since late last year. It is not known to be contagious for humans.
France has already confirmed more than 80 cases of H5N8 bird flu among domestic poultry, but these have been in southwestern areas far from the latest outbreaks.
The country, which is has the largest poultry flock in the European Union, was already affected by a severe bird flu episode a year ago in the southwest that led the authorities to suspend duck and goose breeding in the region known for production of foie gras liver pate.
Different strains of bird flu have also spread in Asia in recent weeks, leading to the slaughtering of millions of birds in South Korea and Japan and several human infections in China.
(Reporting by Gus Trompiz; Editing by Leigh Thomas)