Dutch set safety corridor as a bird flu hits a fourth poultry farm

The Dutch secretary of agriculture has established a safety corridor for the transportation of chickens in the wake of an outbreak of the deadly H5N8 avian influenza virus that has been confirmed at four poultry farms.

Sharon Dijksma

Sharon Dijksma, the secretary for economic affairs for the Netherlands, recently announced that the country will be divided into four regions as a precaution to minimize contact between infected poultry and nonaffected areas. Dutch poultry is only to be transported within each of the four regions because of the high density of poultry production.

New technology has sparked an explosive growth of animal production in the country over the two decades, creating high-intensity farms that house millions of animals. It's estimated there are roughly 103 million chickens, 12 million pigs, 4 million cows and millions more sheep, turkeys, ducks, rabbits and goats, Reuters reported.

Citing Statistics Netherlands, the news agency says the average number of hens per hatchery has doubled in 13 years.

"The Netherlands are really vulnerable because of this density (of farms)," Bernard Vallat, the head of the World Organization for Animal Health, told Reuters. "When there is a disease in the Netherlands, which is the country in the world the concentration of farms is the highest, be it for poultry or pigs, it hurts."

The current bird flu infection is the ninth animal epidemic to hit the country in the last 20 years and, so far, has resulted in the mandatory culling of more than 200,000 birds. The last bird flu epidemic happened 11 years ago.

- see the Reuters story
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