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Italian poultry worker tests positive for avian flu

ROME (Reuters) - A man who works with poultry in Italy has tested positive for avian influenza following outbreaks among birds on farms in the northern Emilia Romagna region, the Italian Health Ministry said on Monday.

Italian authorities have been culling thousands of birds since the discovery of the H7N7 strain on several farms in August, the first outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in Italian poultry since 2000.

The Ministry said the affected man, who was exposed to sick poultry during work in contaminated areas, has contracted conjunctivitis as a result of his infection.

It said the H7N7 strain can be passed only to humans who come into direct contact with diseased animals and usually has mild effects on humans, such as conjunctivitis.

Human-to-human transmission is extremely rare, it added.

So far, outbreaks of the influenza among poultry have been found at four locations, the ministry said.

They include two egg-producing farms, totaling a population of roughly 700,000 laying hens.

Authorities have set up protection and surveillance zones around affected areas, which include movement restrictions on poultry and poultry products and ongoing veterinary checks.

(Reporting By Catherine Hornby; editing by Jane Baird)