Over the past 10 days, the European nation reporting the highest number of new highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) outbreaks in farmed poultry is the United Kingdom (U.K.).

In an almost unbroken series of outbreaks starting in October of 2021, cases have been detected at 252 premises in England, according to the agriculture department Defra. As of November 22, 118 outbreaks have been confirmed since the start of last month. 

Between October 28 and November 13, the authorities have officially registered 19 outbreaks on commercial farms. According to recent notifications to the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH), these directly involved more than 678,000 poultry.

Almost without exception, these outbreaks in the U.K. since the autumn of last year have been linked to the H5N1 HPAI virus variant — as has been the case elsewhere in Europe.

In addition to the many outbreaks in England in recent weeks, birds testing positive for the same virus have been found in Scotland. While the number and type of bird involved are yet to be clarified, both affected premises are in the northeastern council area of Aberdeenshire. 

Earlier this month, the National Farmers Union of Scotland called on the Scottish government to introduce a mandatory housing order for poultry. Such an order has been put into effect in England. As a result of poor support from retailers and the present threat of HPAI, the Union reported that poultry farmers were facing extreme pressure. It said that this situation could be eased by requiring all poultry to be kept away from wild birds that most often transmit the infection.

In England, a government order to keep all poultry indoors has been in place already for more than two weeks. 

Outbreak total in European commercial poultry reaches 2,000

As of November 18, 2,000 HPAI outbreaks have been recorded in commercial poultry flocks across Europe so far 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. The Republic of Ireland is the latest nation to register its first outbreak of the year through this system. 

With around six more weeks of 2022 ahead, this year’s total well exceeds the 1,756  outbreaks registered with the EC by 24 European states for the whole of last year.

This year, mainland France has reported by far the highest number of HPAI outbreaks in poultry to the EC (1,411). Next come Hungary (223), Germany (85), and the Netherlands (76).

Registering new outbreaks with the EC since November 4 have been Croatia and Denmark.

The disease situation in the U.K. is not covered in the EC report (except for Northern Ireland). 

More on the HPAI situation in northwestern Europe

In Ireland, presence of the H5N1 HPAI virus was confirmed in a flock of turkeys in County Monaghan on November 13, according to the Irish government. Located in the north of the Republic, the premises is reported to be near to the border with Northern Ireland. Restrictions on movements of birds and their products affect both sides of this border. 

The most recent previous outbreak in an Irish poultry flock was in December of last year. 

To WOAH, the veterinary authority in France has registered a further six outbreaks linked to the same virus variant. Affecting around 65,500 birds in total, these infections were confirmed in the period November 4-7. 

According to the nation’s agriculture ministry, 69 outbreaks have been confirmed on commercial farms in mainland France since August 1 (as of November  21). An increase of 21 since November 8, one or more outbreaks have occurred over this time in 23 departments across 10 of the 12 regions. 

Over the past few days, the Dutch agriculture ministry confirmed three more HPAI outbreaks in poultry. These directly affected 275,000 poultry — two flocks of laying hens and one of broiler breeder grandparents — in three different provinces.

Earlier this month, Belgium’s authorities reported to WOAH one more HPAI outbreak, bringing that nation’s total since September to eight. Latest cases were in a commercial chicken flock in the Antwerp area.

In Norway, a second outbreak of the season has been confirmed in the southwestern county of Rogaland. Earlier this month, 11 of the 7,500 laying hens at the farm died and the rest of the flock has been destroyed. In mid-October, 7,000 birds of unspecified type at another farm in the same county showed signs of the infection, and we were also culled. 

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HPAI developments elsewhere on European poultry farms

In Hungary, total outbreaks has risen to 13 since the start of November. Of these, 10 have been in the southern county of Bacs-Kiskun, and three in neighboring Csongrad-Csanad. Each of the latest outbreaks involved between 450 and 14,650 commercial birds of unspecified type.  

Last week, Italy’s veterinary authority registered a further eight outbreaks of HPAI in poultry to WOAH. Covering the period November 6-14, these involved a total of more than 200,000 birds. As well as two backyard flocks, affected were meat turkeys, broilers, laying hens and breeders. Affected were premises in three regions — mainly in Veneto but also in Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna. 

Latest update from the Italian health authority and research organization for animal health and food safety IZSVe puts the number of HPAI outbreaks in the country since September at 24 (as of November 17).

In Germany, just one new HPAI outbreak has been registered with WOAH. It was the first time that the H5N1 virus serotype had been detected in poultry in Hesse, a state in central Germany. Of the 9,312 breeding turkeys on the farm, more than 1,000 died and the rest have been destroyed. 

At the end of last month, the HPAI situation was “resolved” in Portugal’s poultry sector, according to the latest WOAH notification. 

Previous reports covered three outbreaks linked to the H5N1 virus variant since the end of August. Affected were almost 255,000 meat ducks at farms in three different districts. 

More outbreaks in Europe’s backyard flocks, captive birds

Over the past few months, the EC has included a separate category for HPAI outbreaks in captive birds. Covering non-commercial poultry flocks, zoos, and similar premises, this year’s total stands at 196 (as of November 18). 

For the first time, an outbreak has been reported in North Macedonia, bringing the total countries with cases so far this year to 18.

With 86 so far this year, France leads the region’s nations for this type of outbreak, followed by the Netherlands (47), Germany (16), and Belgium (13). Each of the other nations registering cases in this category in 2022 has registered no more than seven outbreaks. 

Since November 4, Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Switzerland have each registered one or more new cases in backyard/captive birds with the EC.

Not covered by the EC system, the U.K. has registered seven new outbreaks in captive birds to WOAH over the past 10 days.

Following a brief absence, the H5N1 HPAI virus has been detected again in Moldova. According to the official WOAH report, the virus (clade 2.3.4.4b, fully Eurasian lineage) was detected in poultry in the central district of Telenesti earlier this month. Of the 48 birds present, 29 died and the rest have been destroyed. 

Cases in European wild birds pass 3,000

For the year to November 18, a total of 3,034 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, 1,204 outbreaks have been reported by Germany, followed by the  Netherlands (640) and France (275). 

Since November 4, totals have also increased for Belgium, Denmark, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Northern Ireland, Norway, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.

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. 

Over the past week, authorities in the U.K. have registered with WOAH that 112 more wild birds have recently tested positive for the H5N1 HPAI virus.

Following previous detections in wild birds, the U.K. has declared the HPAI situation in wild birds to be “closed” on the following islands: Guernsey, Alderney, Jersey, and the Isle of Man. 

With the continent currently suffering its worst ever outbreak of HPAI in birds, it was highly likely that someone, somewhere in Europe, would become infected with the virus. Earlier this month, it was reported that two poultry farm workers in Spain have been infected with the H5N1 virus strain.

View our continuing coverage of the global avian influenza situation.