A wild goose tested positive for highly pathogenic avian influenza (H5N1) in the municipality of Schilde in the province of Antwerp. This indicates that the virus is circulating in wild bird populations, said the statement.

The stricter measures apply to professional companies, as well as to hobby poultry keepers.

To further limit the spread of the virus, FAVV calls on all poultry and bird keepers to strictly follow all applicable biosecurity measures. The authorities also asked hikers to report dead wild water birds, if spotted.

FAVV advises poultry producers and hobby poultry keepers to keep poultry in cages, feeding and watering them indoors. Poultry and birds should not be watered with rainwater or surface water to which wild birds have access. Sudden, increased mortality should be reported to the authorities.

"I want to protect the poultry of professional poultry farmers and hobbyists as best as possible," said David Clarinval, Federal Minister of Agriculture. "That is why we decided, together with the FAVV, to anticipate the potential threat to our country."

"By switching to a period of increased risk and by applying the necessary biosecurity measures, we want to prevent this disease from infecting our poultry and we want to avoid the damage that the sector has already suffered in the past," he added.

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