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    Agency warns risk of avian flu still very real

    The risk of Avian flu is still very real in Belgium, Belgium’s federal Food Safety Agency (known as the AFSCA) warned yesterday evening (Monday). The strain of avian flu H5N8, which is highly pathogenic, has been spreading everywhere in Europe since the end of October last year.

    The first infection with this virus was found in Belgium on February 1st, in an ornamental bird enthusiast in Lebbeke. The birds had been contaminated following direct contacts with duck and wild geese. This is currently the only case in our country.

    The AFSCA is warning, “However, the absence of further infected cases does not mean that there is no longer a risk. It is highly probable that infected wild birds are still present in Belgium.”

    The organisation is indeed calling for the application of prescribed measures, “even if they may sometimes be uncomfortable for animals.”

    Amongst these measures feature confinement of birds and poultry (either indoors, or outdoors under wire netting). A further measure is the prohibition of markets and other events at which poultry and or other birds owned by numerous keepers are gathered.

    These measures, which also apply to pigeons and flightless birds (ostriches, rheas, emus and others), will apply through to March 10th (inclusive). They could be prolonged if the risk subsists.

    Equally, the AFSCA concludes that if the risk is tangibly reduced, the measures may be lifted sooner.

    Christopher Vincent
    The Brussels Times