Because of strict avian influenza control measures adopted by the government and effective communications to the media, the Netherlands again has a viable poultry industry after outbreaks of high-pathogen avian influenza hit the entire nation in 2003. In an effort to help China recover from the devastation the virus brought earlier in 2013, Aakon Schüssel of the Dutch Poultry Centre helped share the Netherlands' success story on September 6 at International Poultry Forum China.

When a high-pathogen form of avian influenza struck the Netherlands in 2003, 255 farms were infected and 30.7 million birds were destroyed, which ultimately led to 40 percent of the farms going out of business and a loss of £750 million (US$1.19 billion) to the industry. In addition, the outbreak spread to Germany and Belgium, and there were about 1,000 human infections, including one death.

But since that time, there have only been 10 minor cases of low-pathogen avian influenza in the Netherlands.

"Effective clearing and the right media attention resulted in very limited consequences," said Schüssel. "The poultry industry in the country was minimally affected because consumers could trust and still consume poultry meat."


After the 2003 outbreak, the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality created a guide for effective and careful control of avian influenza, Schüssel said, which included a checklist for repression of avian influenza and details on policy and control measures.

If a poultry producer notices a 5 percent reduction in egg production or a 3 percent increase in mortality rates, he is required to contact a veterinarian, and a specialized team visits the farms and takes samples. If a high-pathogen form of avian influenza is suspected by the specialized team, the ministry is contacted and a 72-hour stand-still period is established.

The Dutch ministry also establishes protection and control zones within 3 and 10 miles of the affected farms. Within that zone, poultry is destroyed, and there is to be no movement of any other farm animals, milk, fertilizer or feed. In a surrounding buffer zone, movement of poultry, fertilizer and eggs is banned, and movement of other animals is severely limited. Similar, yet less-restrictive provisions were established for farms affected by low-pathogenic avian influenza.

Schüssel acknowledged that what worked in the Netherlands may not necessarily be best for China, but the two countries have similarities in terms of dense human and poultry populations.