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Brussels, 9 April 2003

Avian influenza in the Netherlands: restrictions extended

The Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health voted in favour of a European Commission proposal to extend until Friday, April 25 the restrictions put in place after outbreaks of avian influenza in the Netherlands. No live poultry, hatching eggs and fresh, unprocessed poultry manure or litter may be exported to other Member States or third countries and, with some derogations, no live poultry and hatching eggs may be transported within the Netherlands. In line with the discussions at the Agricultural Council yesterday in Luxembourg, Belgium and Germany have also taken strict biosecurity measures in the border regions to the Netherlands.

David Byrne, European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, expressed his concerns that all preventive action is taken and respected by the operators and the competent authorities in the Netherlands and neighbouring Member States.

Outbreaks of avian influenza in the province of Gelderland have been confirmed since 28 February. Last week, the disease also spread to the province of Limburg in a region close to the borders with Belgium and Germany. Those two countries have taken precautionary measures in the area bordering Dutch Limburg.

To date, the number of infected holdings in the Netherlands is 197 and another 21 are seriously suspected to be contaminated. In total, approximately 11 million birds in 783 holdings have been culled since the start of the epidemic.

The Dutch authorities have created buffer zones around the infected areas, where all poultry farms are being emptied. To prevent disease spread, the country has been divided into "compartments" and potentially dangerous movements of vehicles transporting poultry, eggs, etc. between compartments are strictly regulated. The culling capacities have been enhanced in order to speed up the response to newly detected suspicious cases.

As a result of the further spread of the disease, the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health agreed to a Commission proposal to extend the protective measures until midnight on 25 April. The authorisation for export of day-old chicks hatched outside the surveillance zones, decided by the Commission Decision of 27 March (see IP/03/437) has been cancelled. Strict rules will also apply for the collection, storage and transport of table eggs.

The Netherlands shall ensure that stringent security and hygiene measures are taken on all levels of poultry production in order to avoid contacts that might be responsible for the spread of avian influenza between farms. These measures will apply in particular to avoiding risky contacts between animals, transport means, equipment and people on and between poultry farms, egg packing stations, hatcheries, slaughterhouses, feedmills, litter processing and rendering plants.

The measures will be reviewed at the next meeting of the Committee. The Commission, in close cooperation with the Dutch authorities, will continue to follow the disease situation in the Netherlands.

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