chronicle of an epizootic that cannot be contained

Cike Omicron in humans, the H5N1 avian influenza virus which is once again affecting farms in the South-West is galloping. Too fast for protective measures to stop him. On Wednesday January 19, the ministry, in agreement with professionals, announced an acceleration of the strategy to combat the virus.

After 1.2 million palmipeds and gallinaceae have already been slaughtered, an additional 1.3 million will be subject to massive, preventive and progressive slaughter (over three weeks) in 226 municipalities, in the Landes, western Gers and the north of the Pyrénées-Atlantiques…

Cike Omicron in humans, the H5N1 avian influenza virus which is once again affecting farms in the South-West is galloping. Too fast for protective measures to stop him. On Wednesday January 19, the ministry, in agreement with professionals, announced an acceleration of the strategy to combat the virus.

After 1.2 million palmipeds and gallinaceae have already been slaughtered, an additional 1.3 million will be subject to massive, preventive and progressive slaughter (over three weeks) in 226 municipalities, in the Landes, western Gers and the north of the Pyrénées-Atlantiques. Objective: to put a stop to the circulation of the virus by creating a vast crawl space and crossing our fingers so that this time… it works.

1 A new traumatic crisis

The numbers are constantly moving. As of January 20, there were 245 outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza in farms, five in backyards and 22 in wildlife. The professionals and the State had nevertheless applied the roadmap adopted in the summer. From the first warning signals, on November 5, when the risk of the presence of the virus on the territory had become high, all the chicken and duck farms were placed under shelter, the densities reduced by 25% and the return to production extended by one week.

On November 26, a first outbreak was detected in the North then on December 16 in the South-West, followed by many others. The State services proved to be more reactive in carrying out slaughtering than during the previous epizootic. There were some hopes. We welcomed a slower spread of the virus, but the number of outbreaks continued to multiply. On December 30, the measures are again reinforced. Re-production prohibited and preventive slaughter ordered 1 km around the hearth for chickens, 3 km for ducks. 1.2 million animals are slaughtered. The sector which thought it had given itself the means to no longer relive the nightmare, must face it again. The trauma is immense.

2 The failure of protective measures

At the department, we don’t want to hear the word “failure”. Within the interprofession of foie gras, Cifog, it is rumored. At the Modef and the Confédération paysanne, they cry “fiasco” denouncing “the wrongful condemnation of the outdoors” when confinement ostensibly shows its limits. Probably without the biosecurity measures it would have been worse. But today, the decided crawl space aims to avoid this worst that is approaching.

On site, scientists from ANSES (Food, Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety Agency) are trying to understand. The first analyzes show a different virus which affects more chickens than that of last year. A virus partly airborne by the ventilation of buildings and with a longer incubation time. There are epidemiological links between farms, the causes of which will have to be found. There is no doubt about the need to review biosafety copying.

3 Avenues of reflection including vaccination

“We will have to analyze the causes of this spread: the flaws in the measures, the human flaws, review the densities a little more downwards in the areas at risk of dissemination, rethink the protection of external workers but also plan the restoration. production, avoid as in the spring, that all farms restart at the same time, and this for both waterfowl and gallinaceae”, underlines Marie-Pierre Pé, director of Cifog.

For the vaccination experiment, 12 pilot sites will have to be found. The territory of the Landes being excluded

At the end of their tether and discouraged, breeders rely on one last hope: vaccination. The Minister of Agriculture, Julien Denormandie, has decided to take this lead to his European colleagues in an attempt to lift the brake on exports. At the same time, an experiment in the field was launched… “quickly”, without further details on the timetable.

Two candidate vaccines have been selected, one from the Neo-Aquitaine laboratory Ceva Santé Animale, the other from Boehringer-Ingelheim in Reims. “We are working with the poultry sectors and avian genetics on the experimentation protocol because the retaliation from third countries on vaccination is fairly immediate. Pilot sites will have to be found. There should be twelve of them spread over the South-West, the Landes territory being excluded, due to the presence of hatcheries. And so that there is no concern, the animals vaccinated for the experiment will be depopulated at the end”, adds Marie-Pierre Pé. In the meantime, the compensation has started. Farmers are asking for their revaluation because this year, the price of poultry feed has jumped 35%.

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