Bird flu outbreak in the Netherlands

Bird flu outbreak in the Netherlands

A highly contagious strain of bird flu has been detected at a Hekendorp chicken farm. 150.000 birds at the affected farm are in the process of being culled, and a transport ban on all poultry products within the Netherlands has taken effect.

H5N8 bird flu discovered in the Netherlands

On Sunday 16 November, it was confirmed by the Ministry for Economic affairs that there has been an outbreak of the highly contagious H5N8 strain of bird flu within the Netherlands.

Agricultural inspectors at the affected farm, in the village of Hekendorp in the Utrecht province, have begun the process of slaughtering its 150.000 chickens. It is so far unclear how the birds became infected.

Danger to humans?

The H5N8 strain of bird flu can infect humans, but to date it has never been detected amongst people. Jan van Diepen, a spokesman for the Ministry of Economic Affairs, stressed that whilst the strain is extremely infectious amongst birds, only humans in very close contact with infected birds are at risk of infection.

If infected, humans develop flu-like symptoms.

Poultry transport ban

Whilst the dangers to humans are being played down, the authorities are nonetheless taking urgent steps to contain the virus.

A nationwide 72-hour transport ban on all poultry products came into place at 11:30am on Sunday. The ban is not only on the movement of birds, chicken or eggs, but also on manure and hay that may have been used in poultry farms. The ban will remain in place for 30 days within a ten kilometre radius of the farm in question.

The transport ban is not expected to seriously affect the availability of chicken or eggs in stores.

The European Commission is holding urgent meetings to implement measures for preventing the spread of H5N8 bird flu in Europe.

These are expected to include a freeze on poultry exports from the Netherlands.

Poultry farming in the Netherlands

The Netherlands is a leading poultry exporter in Europe, and the industry’s farmers are surprised and shocked by the outbreak according to Eric Hubers, chairman of LTO (Land en Tuinbouw Organisatie) the Dutch Federation of Agriculture and Horticulture.

The affected farm produced only eggs, which are primarily sold within the Netherlands - though the Netherlands exports approximately 6 billion eggs a year.

The farm in question is a battery farm, meaning that the chickens are kept in crowded conditions, and seldom - or never - go outside.

Bird flu outside the Netherlands

The H5N8 has was previously detected in South Korea, leading to the slaughter of millions of birds, as well as in China and Japan on a more manageable scale.

The first case of the H5N8 strain of bird flu within Europe was detected earlier this month, in eastern Germany. Leading to the destruction of 30.000 turkeys.

On Monday, an East Yorkshire duck farm in England announced the outbreak of bird flu amongst its animals.

The exact strain is yet to be confirmed, though the H5N1 form - deadly to humans - has been ruled out.

Update | November 18, 2014
The European Comission have attributed the outbreak of bird flu in the Netherlands to migratory birds.

Update | November 19, 2014
The strain of bird flu detected in the UK has been confirmed as H5N8, the same as in the Netherlands.

Update | November 19, 2014
The Dutch government have lifted the transport ban on poultry, on account of no further cases of bird flue being detected.

Update | November 21, 2014
Two additional farms, one in Ter Aar and one in Overijssel, have reported outbreaks of bird flu.

Zoe Neilson


Zoe Neilson

Zoe Neilson is a freelance writer living and working in Amsterdam. She is from Edinburgh, but has also lived in Strasbourg, London, Sydney and Leeds, and has now been based...

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