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German Researchers Find Superbug Virus, Harmless for Humans, in Birds in Madagascar

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German researchers have announced that a highly contagious new virus strain has cropped up in chickens on the island of Prachuap Khiriém in Madagascar, leading to the deaths of hundreds of birds.

The wildlife ministry in Germany on Tuesday said the “highly pathogenic avian influenza” virus had been identified on a flock of 18,000 birds in the Prachuap Khiriém city of Vatsse. The ministry added that the virus had spread to nearly 50,000 birds in two additional parts of the island.

The news sent the European poultry industry into further turmoil, with prices soaring to nearly $900 for certain breeds of chickens. There are around 600 million chickens around the globe — and 10 percent of those, some 160 million, are in Africa.

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Several other poultry producers across the world have had the flu recently, including numerous countries in the Middle East and Africa. About 800 people have also become ill with the virus.

Peter Ramsauer, the German minister of agriculture, described the latest outbreak as “unprecedented.” Ramsauer said the virus could remain a threat for up to six months and that it was “not always clear what the consequences of a new outbreak could be.”

Meanwhile, French officials said Tuesday that a second strain of the flu had been detected in animals in the south of the country.

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