Dutch ban poultry transport after finding dangerous bird flu strain

Dutch authorities on Sunday banned the transport of poultry throughout the Netherlands after finding a strain of bird flu that can jump the species barrier to humans at a farm in the middle of the country.

"This highly pathogenic variant of avian influenza is very dangerous for bird life," the government said in a statement. "The disease can be transmitted from animals to humans."

The disease was first identified at a battery poultry farm with 150,000 hens in the village of Hekendorp late on Saturday. Authorities are currently destroying the birds.

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A technician deals with test reagents for the H7N9 bird flu virus. Quzhou, China.
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A technician deals with test reagents for the H7N9 bird flu virus. Quzhou, China.

The variant, which has not been named, is dangerous for all birds and fatal for chickens.

Earlier outbreaks of bird flu in Europe and Asia have been highly contagious and have infected humans, prompting fears that bird flu outbreaks could spark a major epidemic.

Authorities on Sunday morning imposed a 72-hour ban on transporting all poultry products, including birds, eggs, dung and used straw to and from poultry farms throughout the country. They also imposed a countrywide ban on all kinds of hunting.

The ban will remain in force for 30 days for the 16 poultry farms within a 10 kilometer radius of the site of the outbreak, and all of them will be subject to enhanced security measures for visitors and regularly checked for signs of bird flu.

Some 10,000 chickens were destroyed in March after bird flu was found at a farm in the eastern Dutch province of Gelderland.

Earlier this month, Germany detected cases of the highly pathogenic H5N8 bird flu strain which has hit Asia but has never been reported in Europe. In September, Russia reported the first cases of H5N1, another dangerous strain, in nearly two years.