Some 10 million birds have been culled in France since November to fight bird flu. Image Credit: AP

Paris: Some 10 million ducks, chickens and other poultry have been culled in France since November in one of the most widespread outbreaks of bird flu in years, the agriculture ministry said Wednesday.

The country has been hit by several epidemics since 2015 but they have mainly been contained to the southwest where ducks are bred for the lucrative foie gras liver pate industry.

But this winter has seen the virus spread farther north along the western Atlantic coast to the Pays de la Loire region, spreading rapidly among farms in the Vendee, Loire-Atlantique and Maine-et-Loire departments since late February.

Nearly 1,000 sites have reported cases, including at least 450 in the Vendee, considered strategic by the ministry because it is home to many farms that raise chickens and other birds exclusively for breeding.

However the situation appears to be “stabilising” in the southwest, the ministry said.

Quarantine measures have been taken against the virus and farmers are compensated by the government for losses that can run into the millions of euros.

The H5N1 virus has been detected in 34 European countries this winter, with northern Italy hit particularly hard, prompting authorities to cull 18 million birds so far.

Officials say there is no risk to humans from eating products that may have been produced from infected birds.