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Germany culling some 55,000 poultry as bird flu found on farms

HAMBURG The culling of about 55,000 turkeys, chickens and ducks is underway after bird flu of the highly contagious H5N8 strain was found on farms in a major poultry production region in the north German state of Lower Saxony, authorities said on Tuesday.

Poultry culling on the three farms where H5N8 was found and three others which had contact with them was started over the Christmas weekend and should be completed on Tuesday, the Lower Saxony agriculture ministry said in a statement.

A 72 hour standstill order has been issued banning the sale and transport of poultry from the latest area involved, the ministry said.

The contagious H5N8 strain has been found in more than 500 wild birds in Germany in recent weeks. Outbreaks on farms have been rare after the government introduced tough sanitary rules to prevent infection by wild birds, including orders to keep poultry indoors in high-risk regions.

Several European countries and Israel have found cases of H5N8 bird flu in the past few weeks and some ordered poultry flocks be kept indoors to prevent the disease spreading. France has widened high-risk restrictions to the entire country after the detection of several cases of the H5N8 strain.

South Korea has mobilised its armed forces to help in its biggest-ever poultry cull as the spread of a highly contagious strain bird flu continued, with another 1.6 million birds be destroyed in affected areas.

(Reporting by Michael Hogan, editing by)