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Why Europe is being warned to brace itself for bird flu pandemic

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Europe is being warned to brace itself for a bird flu endemic after a number of countries reported outbreaks of a highly contagious strain of the disease.
So far, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Hungary, Poland, the Netherlands, Denmark and Croatia have all reported cases of the deadly H5N8 strain and there are fears it could spread to other countries.
This strain has not been found in humans, although it is highly contagious and prevalent in wild birds.
Nearly 40,000 chickens and turkeys had to be culled at just one farm in Germany.
Meanwhile, a further 4,000 birds have been killed at a chicken farm in Austria, close to the borders with Switzerland and Germany, and a further chicken farm in Austria has just tested positive for the disease.
Farmers said they were now facing a huge financial struggle because the run up to Christmas is when they make most of their money.
Austrian farmer Klaus Flatz, said: “Christmas is when we see our main turnover. We have to kill about 1,000 animals.For us this is a huge challenge to deal with both physically and mentally. We will have to see how we can cope with the situation economically.”
In Berlin, the government has confirmed it has set up a crisis management desk to deal with the situation.
The Dutch government has ordered all poultry flocks to be kept indoors as a precaution to stop the strain from being spread through the wild bird population. Protection and surveillance zones have been set up around infected poultry to stop the disease from being transmitted from farm to farm.
France has also upped safety checks in a bid to stop the spread of the virus over fears of the economic impact it could have on the agricultural industry.
Bird flu has also been confirmed in dead wild birds found along the shoreline of Switzerland’s Lake Geneva.
So far, this particular strain is not proving a risk to the human population, but there are always fears surrounding bird flu following a number of deaths in China.
Three years ago, China was hit by a severe strain, H7N9, which had never been seen before. It killed nearly 140 people and infected hundreds more.
Lesser strains of bird flu have been found in the UK. In Hampshire, a cleaning and disinfection operation was launched at a farm with the H7N7 strain, while two years ago bird flu was confirmed at a duck farm in Yorkshire.