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HEALTH

France culls record 16 million birds in flu outbreak

A record 16 million chickens, ducks and other poultry have been culled in France since November in one of the most severe bird flu outbreaks in years, the agriculture ministry said on Monday.

France culls record 16 million birds in flu outbreak
A bird is prepared to be sent to a slaughterhouse for extermination during an avian flu outbreak in November 2021 (Photo by GAIZKA IROZ / AFP)

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 industry.

But this winter, for the first time, wild birds migrating back from the south contaminated farmed poultry, sparking a second wave of infections only now coming to an end.

Nearly 1,400 sites have reported cases, including at least 850 in the Vendée, considered strategic by the ministry because it is home to many farms that raise chickens and other birds exclusively for breeding.

However the outbreak peaked at the end of March and the disease’s spread is slowing, the ministry said.

Culling in such large numbers generates substantial costs, both for farmers as production grinds to a halt and export markets close, and for the state which compensates the farmers for their losses.

Egg production has dropped around 6 percent since November as a result of the outbreak, according to the vice-president of the Egg Committee (NCPO) Loic Coulombel.

Last year, nearly 500 sites reported bird flu cases and 3.5 million animals – mainly ducks – were culled.

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TRAVEL NEWS

Paxlovid, tests and isolation: Covid care for tourists in France

With travel opening up, many people are planning trips to France over the next few months, but the Covid pandemic has not gone away. Here are your questions answered on testing, isolation and medical treatment if you do fall sick while on holiday.

Paxlovid, tests and isolation: Covid care for tourists in France

Travel rules

Covid-related travel rules have mostly been relaxed now but you will still need to show proof of being fully vaccinated at the French border. If you are not vaccinated you will need to show a negative Covid test – find the full breakdown of the rules HERE.

Testing

Once in France if you develop symptoms or you have been in contact with someone who has tested positive you will need to get a Covid test.

The good news is that testing is widely available in France, both for residents and tourists.

The easiest way to get a test is head to a pharmacy, most of which offer the rapid-result antigen test on a walk-in basis Tests are available to everyone who wants one, there is no need to fulfill any set criteria.

For full details on how to get a test, and some handy French vocab, click HERE.

The difference for tourists is that you will have to pay for your test, while residents get their costs reimbursed by the French state health system.

In the pharmacy you may be asked for your carte vitale – this is the health card that residents use to claim refunds. As a tourist you won’t have the card – you can still get the test, you will just need to pay for it. Costs vary between pharmacies but are capped at €22 for an antigen test or €54 for a PCR test.

Isolation

If your test is positive you are legally required to isolate, but how long your isolation period is depends on the your vaccination stats – full details HERE.

Treatment

For most fully-vaccinated people without underlying health conditions the symptoms of Covid are fairly mild, but if you do become ill, here’s how to access medical help while in France.

Pharmacy – one of the first things you will notice about France is that pharmacies are everywhere, just look out for the green cross. As well as selling over-the-counter medication, pharmacies all have at least one fully-qualified pharmacist on the staff who can offer medical advice. 

Take advantage of pharmacists – they train for at least six years so they’re very knowledgeable and they’re easy to access by simply walking into the shop. In tourist areas it’s likely that they will speak English. Pharmacists can also signpost you to a nearby doctor if you need extra help.

Doctors – if you need to see a doctor, look out for a médecin généraliste (a GP or family doctor). There is no need to be registered with a doctor, simply call up and ask for an appointment if you need one. If you have a smartphone you can use the medical app Doctolib to find a généraliste in your area who speaks English. You will need to pay for your consultation – €25 is the standard charge and you pay the doctor directly using either cash or a debit card.

You may be able to claim back the cost later on your own health/travel insurance depending on the policy.

Ambulance – if you are very sick or have difficulty breathing you should call an ambulance – the number is 15. All non-residents are entitled to emergency treatment in France, whether or not you have insurance, but if you are admitted or have treatment you may need to pay later.

READ ALSO Emergency in France: Who to call and what to say

Paxlovid – several readers have asked whether the Covid treatment drug Paxlovid is available in France. It was licenced for use in February 2022 and is available on prescription from pharmacies, mainly for people with underlying health conditions or an impaired immune system. You can get a prescription from a medical practitioner.

The drug is reimbursed for French residents, but as a tourist you will have to pay.

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