Czech farm to cull 220,000 chickens in country's largest bird flu outbreak

PRAGUE (Reuters) -Czech authorities are preparing to destroy up to 220,000 hens on a poultry farm in the west of the country after bird flu was discovered there last week, in the biggest outbreak to date.

Bird flu was reported last Friday at the farm located 150 km (90 miles) west from Prague, which can house up to 750,000 chickens, after an increase of deaths in one of three halls there.

The Czech Republic's State Veterinary Administration (SVS) said on Tuesday that since checks revealed the infection only in one of the halls, the majority of the flock could be spared.

"The whole (population of the) hall will have to be culled," said Petr Majer, SVS spokesman.

The infections come as countries try to limit the spread. Since November, Czech authorities have required poultry farms to keep flocks indoors.

On Tuesday, another case of bird flu was reported at a farm 68 km south of Prague, where 12,000 chickens and 1,000 turkeys will be culled, CTK news agency reported.

Bird flu is pressuring already high food prices and triggering trade restrictions from countries that import poultry.

A record number of chickens, turkeys and other birds have died in outbreaks in the United States and Europe, and the virus is spreading in South America, Africa, and Asia.

The virus can be transmitted to humans in contact with poultry, but experts say the health risk to humans is low.

(Reporting by Jason Hovet and Robert Muller; Editing by Alison Williams and Susan Fenton)