As of October 22, 1,898 highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) outbreaks have been recorded in commercial poultry flocks across Europe this year. 

This is based on the latest update of the Animal Disease Information System by the European Commission (EC). To date, one or more outbreaks have occurred in 23 countries covered by the EC since the start of 2022. Reporting the first cases of the year among poultry are Norway and the French overseas department of Reunion. 

In comparison, a total of 1,756 outbreaks were registered with the EC by 24 European states over the whole of 2021.

This year, mainland France is the nation reporting the most outbreaks to the EC (1,381). Next come Hungary (205), the Netherlands (69), and Germany (67). 

Almost without exception, the H5N1 HPAI virus serotype has been identified as the cause of outbreaks across Europe since the fall of 2021.

Sharp rise in HPAI outbreaks in English poultry flocks

Since October 17, a mandatory housing order has been in place for all poultry across the whole of England. Under the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) rules, owners of both commercial and hobby flocks are required to keep birds confined, and to implement additional biosecurity measures. Previously, the AIPZ measures only applied to parts of southwest and eastern England.

The extended AIPZ was announced by the agriculture department, Defra, following a new assessment of the HPAI risk in England by the chief veterinarian. 

Also on October 17, an AIPZ was imposed across Northern Ireland by the agriculture department. This followed the recent detection of the H5N1 HPAI virus in captive birds at a wildlife reserve near Strangford Lough.

Since the end of September, HPAI outbreaks have been officially registered at 30 poultry farms across England, Scotland and Wales. According to the notifications to the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH), these have directly impacted more than 350,000 birds through mortality or culling. The most recent of these outbreaks began on October 13.

More recent updates from Defra put the number of confirmed outbreaks in England at 68 HPAI outbreaks over the same period (up to October 24). Almost all of these involved commercial poultry, and the majority occurred in the eastern counties of Norfolk and Suffolk. 

As the United Kingdom is no longer a member of the European Union, the EC system now only covers Northern Ireland. 

First cases on the season in another French region

Over the past 10 days, France has registered with WOAH a further 11 HPAI outbreaks of poultry farms, involving a total of more than 154,000 birds. 

Most of the affected premises in mainland France were located in the western region of Pays de la Loire. There were also cases in Auverne-Rhône-Alpes in the southeast, and the first occurrence in the new season in Nouvelle-Aquitaine in the southwest. 

Dutch ag minister supports vaccination

In the Netherlands, poultry at five farms tested positive for the H5N1 virus serotype in the period October 8-14, according to the latest WOAH notification. Affected were premises in four provinces — Friesland, Limburg, Overijssel, and South Holland — with a total of more than 399,000 poultry of different types. 

Over the past week, the Dutch agriculture ministry has recorded a further three farm outbreaks. Two were in Gelderland, and one in Limburg. 

Across the Netherlands, housing of poultry has been mandatory since earlier this month. Furthermore, in designated areas of high poultry density, all premises within 1 kilometer of a confirmed outbreak are now depopulated. Those between 3 and 10 kilometers from the outbreak are monitored for the infection for 14 days. A ban on movements of poultry and their products is in place within 10 kilometers of the outbreak. 

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Describing the consequences of the avian flu situation in the country as “untenable,” newly appointed agriculture minister Piet Adema has vowed to support the acceptance of vaccination as a means to control the disease. 

Five other European nations record cases on poultry farms

In each of the northwest German states of North Rhine-Westphalia and Lower Saxony, one new outbreak involving commercial poultry has been reported to WOAH. 

According to Italian health authority and research organization for animal health and food safety, IZSVe, the country’s first outbreak of the season was in a mixed poultry flock in the Veneto region one month ago. 

Over the past week, the presence of the H5N1 HPAI virus has also been confirmed in a Veneto broiler flock, in meat turkeys in Lombardy, and in laying hens in Emilia-Romagna. 

There have been 28 HPAI outbreaks on Italian poultry farms so far in 2022, according to IZSVe. 

Over the past 10 days, one further outbreak has been registered in a commercial flock in Belgium, Bulgaria, and Norway. For the latter two states, these were the first cases of the 2022-2023 season. 

Further outbreaks among backyard flocks, captive birds

In its reporting system, the EC has recently introduced a separate category for HPAI outbreaks in captive birds. Covering non-commercial poultry flocks, zoos, and similar premises, this year’s total stands at 167 (as of October 22). The first cases of the year have been recorded through this system in the French overseas territory of Réunion, the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. 

With 75 so far this year, France leads the region’s nations for this type of outbreak, followed by the Netherlands (42), and Belgium (11). Each of the 13 other countries reporting cases in this category in 2022 has registered between one and eight outbreaks.

Since October 7, France has confirmed with the EC 11 new outbreaks in backyard/captive birds, the Netherlands five, and Belgium three.

Not covered by the EC system, the U.K. has registered nine new outbreaks in captive birds to WOAH. Affecting backyard chickens, ornamental birds and those at a wildfowl center, the cases were widely distributed across England. 

HPAI outbreaks continue in wild species across Europe

For the year to October 22, a total of 2,826 HPAI outbreaks in wild birds have been reported to the EC. One or more outbreaks have now been confirmed in 32 European states in 2022. 

Of the total, 1,144 outbreaks have been reported by Germany, followed by the Netherlands (595) and France (250). 

Since October 7, total cases have also risen for Belgium, Iceland, Italy, Norway, Slovenia, Spain, and Northern Ireland.

For comparison, the EC disease system recorded a total of 2,437 HPAI outbreaks in captive and wild birds in 31 European states during the whole of 2021. 

View our continuing coverage of the global avian influenza situation.