Norway to ban outdoor poultry after bird flu case

Norwegian authorities on Friday said they would introduce a regional ban on keeping poultry outside after a case of bird flu was confirmed in a wild bird.

Norway to ban outdoor poultry after bird flu case
Photo: Arvid Høidahl/Unsplash

The Norwegian Food Safety Authority said a case of H5N8 had been confirmed in a wild goose in the western Sandnes municipality.

The government agency said that in the next few days it would “introduce a curfew for poultry in some parts of the country” meaning all domestic birds would need to be kept under a roof.

Norway is the latest in a line of European countries to take action after finding cases of the virus, which is not harmful to humans but is potentially devastating to the farming sector.

Until the new measure comes into force the authorities asked poultry breeders, especially on the country's west coast, to take care to minimise contact between their birds and wild birds, and report if they saw increased mortality in their flocks.

“The commercial poultry industry in these areas should protect themselves against possible infection by keeping ducks and other poultry indoors until further notice,” Ole-Herman Tronerud, section head of animal health at the food safety authority, said in a statement.

The Sandnes case is the first in Norway, but previously this autumn the virus has appeared in France, Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands, Russia, Ireland and Britain among other countries.

Dutch officials said earlier this month they had culled more than 200,000 birds.

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Isolation nearly over for Norway penguins as vaccination arrives

They have been living under strict confinement measures for months, but soon the second shot of a life-saving vaccine will let them go outside and get back to their normal lives.

Isolation nearly over for Norway penguins as vaccination arrives
Illustration photo: Manon Buizert on Unsplash

While it sounds like a familiar story, in this case their normal lives involve sliding about on their bellies, frolicking in icy water and catching fish in their mouths.

Twenty-nine gentoo penguins at Norway’s Bergen Aquarium have had a tarp stretched over their pen since early December after cases of a highly infectious bird flu strain, H5N8, were detected in the country.

“Because of this, the Food Health Authority introduced a curfew: all birds in captivity must be kept under a roof,” aquarium director Aslak Sverdrup told AFP on Thursday. 

But the end is in sight, with the arrival of bird flu vaccine doses.

The oldest and most fragile had their first shot on Wednesday, followed by the younger penguins on Thursday, the aquarium said.

Among the freshly immunised is “Erna”, named for Prime Minister Erna Solberg who once had a summer job at the aquarium, a tourist attraction in the western city where she was born.

Once the second vaccine dose has been administered in a month’s time, the birds will be able to see the sky again.

“The fact that penguins are being vaccinated now is pure coincidence, totally independent of the coronavirus, but it shows that vaccines are important, even more so today,” Sverdrup said.

In the wild, gentoo penguins live on the other side of the Earth, in Antarctica.

None at the Bergen Aquarium caught the flu, and while the disease can be devastating for birds, transmission to humans is rare.