According to the latest report from the agriculture ministry in France, dated December 18, avian influenza has been confirmed at 42 locations – 12 more than the previous report 2 days earlier. A sixth department (region) has been affected in the southwest of the country – Hautes Pyrénées – which borders Spain. Other regions affected are Landes (18 outbreaks), Dordogne (12), Gers (6), Pyrénées Atlantiques (4) and Haute Vienne (1).

The highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) virus of an H5 subtype has been confirmed at most of the affected premises – generally prior to the birds being transported to the slaughterhouse - and the majority of birds affected so far have been ducks.

New cases in Landes were revealed at 4 locations when birds were tested prior to slaughter in the communities of Montaut, Saint Sever, Aubagnan and Eyres Moncube. In each case, samples taken tested positive for a highly pathogenic H5 form of the AI virus. In another outbreak in the region, both the H5N2 and H5N9 virus variants have been found in a domestic duck flock in Saint Cricq en Chalosse.

H5 HPAI has been detected in one new flock in Dordogne – at Lardin Saint Lazare, near a previous outbreak – prior to movement and slaughter.

The new cases in Gers, all also confirmed as H5 HPAI prior to transportation to the abattoir - are in ducks in Cazaubon, Eauze and Caupenne d'Armagnac.

Two duck flocks in Pyrénées Atlantiques tested positive in Maucor and Saint Jammes.

In Hautes Pyrénées, the HPAI virus was found at Labatut-Rivière during testing following an earlier outbreak nearby in Arroses.

Work is ongoing in each case to identify the variant(s) of the AI virus involved.

Advertisement

Update on global avian flu situation in humans

Official agencies in France are stressing that the HPAI in poultry flocks there poses no danger to human health through the consumption of poultry meat and other products.

The latest update from the World Health Organization (WHO) puts the total number of confirmed cases of influenza A (H5N1) since 2003 at 844, including 449 deaths.

Since the last update in November 2015, no new laboratory-confirmed human cases have been reported to WHO. So far in 2015, there have 143 cases, including 42 deaths, making it the worst year for this disease for the last 5 years. Worst-affected in 2015 was Egypt (136 cases, 39 deaths), with China (5 cases, 1 death) and Indonesia (2 cases, both died) also reporting outbreaks.

Commenting on the possible threat posed to human health of the latest outbreaks in French poultry, WHO states that, based on preliminary data, at least one of the viruses has different origins from the influenza A (H5) viruses that have caused human cases in the past. WHO says it is in contact with the animal health authorities to understand these viruses better and to assess the public health risk more accurately.

For avian influenza A (H7N9), WHO has received reports of two new confirmed human cases of infection in China, both of which reportedly had exposure to domestic poultry. This brings the total of confirmed cases of this virus in humans to 683, including at least 275 deaths. In 2015, the virus has been detected in the animal population in multiple provinces in China, indicating that the virus persists in the poultry population. If the pattern of human cases follows the trends seen in previous years, the number of human cases may rise over the coming months.

Since its previous update a month ago, WHO has been informed of 4 confirmed human cases of the avian influenza A (H9N2) virus infection in people in China. All of the cases were reported to have mild disease and none was hospitalized.