March 24, 2017 / 11:09 AM / 3 years ago

Germany relaxes some bird flu restrictions as threat recedes

HAMBURG (Reuters) - German authorities said on Friday they will relax some restrictions introduced to combat the spread of bird flu as the risk from the disease is falling.

Farmers in parts of Germany’s most northerly state of Schleswig-Holstein will be permitted to allow their poultry into open fields from Saturday, the state farm ministry said.

Germany was one of many European countries that found cases of the highly contagious H5N8 bird flu and ordered poultry flocks be kept indoors to prevent the disease spreading. Contact with wild birds was suspected to be a major source of infection.

Bird flu has been largely absent from the most northerly area of Schleswig-Holstein for five weeks, said state farm minister Robert Habeck.

The overall threat level is also falling as the bird migration season is coming to an end while warm temperatures also reduce the spread of the disease, he said.

But a lock-up order will remain in force for some regions of Schleswig-Holstein, compelling other farmers to keep poultry inside. Germany has culled more than 700,000 farm chickens, turkeys, ducks and other poultry types since November 2016 to combat bird flu.

France, which has the largest poultry flock in Europe, also said on Monday that the number of suspected bird flu cases was in sharp decline and hopes are rising that the recent crisis could be ending.

Reporting by Michael Hogan; editing by David Clarke

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