Some 190,000 ducks have been culled in the Netherlands as part of efforts to stop the spread of bird flu in northern Europe. The highly contagious H5N8 strain has caused outbreaks in Denmark, Germany, Sweden and Finland.
The mass slaughter took place across six farms, after the virus was discovered in the village of Biddinghuizen, around 70 kilometers east of Amsterdam, the BBC reports. The Dutch government has not said which strain showed up.
Authorities said they were going over farms within three kilometers of the original site to check for bird flu, and have now placed a transport ban on poultry products within a ten kilometer radius.
Bird flu, or avian influenza, is an infectious disease of wild birds and poultry that first appeared in South Korea in 2014. The virus later spread to Japan, Europe and North America, with outbreaks reported at poultry farms from 2014 to 2015.
According to scientists, bird flu is carried by migrating birds from Asia going to Europe and North America. The most likely way other birds are contracting the disease is from contact with infected birds or with contaminated droppings.
Most bird flu virus strains don’t infect humans. But hundreds of people have been killed by the H5N1 strain, mostly as a result of contact with infected poultry, either live or dead. There has been no evidence that the virus can infect people through well-cooked birds.
So far, no human cases of H5N8 have been reported. But the World Health Organization (WHO) reminds the public that human infection should not be discounted, although the possibilities are low.
WHO advises people to avoid direct or indirect contact with birds that are sick or found dead, and report such incidents immediately to authorities. In case there has been contact, wash hands thoroughly with soap and disinfectant. Lastly, follow good food safety and food preparation practices to prevent the virus from spreading.