Holland Expat – Bird Flu Hits Close to Home

17 Dec

Screen Shot 2014-12-06 at 11.16.12 PMA country of canals is the Netherlands, and with canals come birds. I enjoy spotting them from my bicycle or as I walk, though I tend to keep a respectful distance since I know what a goose attack feels like. This fall, I’ve especially delighted to see the gray cygnets which grow so fast slowly turning into white swans. Wild ducks are terribly common as well.

Did you know ducks and swans can get the bird flu?

It makes sense, but I hadn’t thought much about it till a second outbreak of the bird flu hit the Netherlands. About that time, the international school sent home this note:Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 2.43.50 PM

Bird Flu: You may have heard of an incidence of bird flu being reported in The Netherlands recently along with some cases in the United Kingdom. Strict measures have been put in place in The Netherlands to isolate this incidence and prevent the spread of bird flu which does not pose any significant risk to people as long as poultry is well cooked. For more detailed information, please see these links: and

Consider that there are 95m chickens on Dutch poultry farms and egg exports totalled €10.6bn (£8.4bn) in 2011, according to the latest Dutch statistics (The Guardian), it’s a very serious affair. So what does this “outbreak” look like?  Two poultry farms in the Netherlands, one in Germany, and one in the UK are being “disinfected” which means 100’s of thousands of birds killed, they and their eggs destroyed, and a cordoned off area to watch nearby farms.

The outbreak in the UK caught my eye because the it was a duck farm. Wild ducks were culled in Holland and at least two found positive. Then I found out swans can get the bird flu as well (2 confirmed cases in Germany). The kicker is this happens to some degree almost every year because it probably originates with migratory birds carrying the virus through the area. There’s no stopping that.

The ones around our area are just a bit whiter than these right now.

The cygnets around our area are just a bit whiter than these right now.

Where it really hit home for my family was in the grocery store. Part of the stringent measures included bans on export for some time till the threat was contained. During the first ban I was shopping and saw that for the chicken I normally buy I could get twice as much for the same price. With four growing boys, I call that a silver lining even as I pray for complete containment for this migratory season.


Kristin King is an American author recently relocated to the Netherlands. To peruse her novels and author information visit this link



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Posted by on December 17, 2014 in Living in Holland


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