Avian flu causes havoc among Hungarian poultry

While a further 19 new outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) are confirmed on poultry farms in Hungary, there have also been new cases in Taiwan and Vietnam. In China, two new cases of influenza of avian origin have been confirmed in young children, both of whom have recovered.

(bangoland | Bigstock)
(bangoland | Bigstock)

Hungary’s battle to control highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in poultry continues, with substantial further losses reported in the past week.

Between April 25 and May 3, 10 new outbreaks caused by the H5N8 virus variant were confirmed in the southern county of Bacs-Kiskun, and one further outbreak in neighboring Csongrad.

These official reports from the agriculture ministry to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) omit most of the detail regarding the number and type of birds involved in the current series of HPAI outbreaks. However, it was noted that more than 160,000 birds were affected at just one of the premises.

Based on the OIE reports, it appears that HPAI was absent in Hungary from the end of January of this year, however, the virus was detected again at the end of March. Number of outbreaks recorded by the OIE has reached 251, and losses of birds are likely to easily exceed two million.

With access to more current information, Italy’s health authority and research organization for animal health (IZSVe) has recorded a further eight confirmed HPAI outbreaks in Hungary.

Occurring in the period May 6-11, the latest cases according to this source are described as secondary outbreaks, linked to previously confirmed infections. Of these new outbreaks, five were in Bacs-Kiskun, two in Csongrad, and one was in neighboring Bekes. All these counties share borders with Serbia or Romania.

Asia: Further outbreaks in Taiwan, Vietnam

Vietnam’s agriculture ministry has reported to the OIE that the H5N1 HPAI virus returned to the south of the country in mid-April. More than 2,100 poultry belonging to three village flocks died, and a further 910 have been destroyed. Affected flocks were in the Mekong Delta region, in the provinces of Can Tho, Dong Thap, and Vinh Long. This virus had previously been detected in the region as recently as March of this year.

Also after a brief absence, the H5N6 HPAI virus returned to northern Vietnam in January of 2020. According to the agriculture ministry, 750 birds at each of two locations died between mid-April and early May. Of the village flocks in Ninh Binh and Hanoi, more than 19,600 more birds have been destroyed. Both of these areas are in the Red River Delta region, where previous outbreaks have been recorded. They bring the total outbreaks in this series to 46, and the number of poultry lost through mortality or culling to more than 114,600.

In Taiwan, two more confirmed outbreaks of HPAI linked to the H5N5 virus variant were confirmed during April. Affected were two flocks of native chickens—one at a farm in Yanpu in Pingtung county, and another was a group of birds at the Wanhua slaughterhouse in Taipei.

Increased mortality among six-week-old chickens alerted the Yanpu farmer to the possibility of HPAI, reports Focus Taiwan. Authorities immediately began testing of other nearby poultry.

These bring Taiwan’s total outbreaks linked to this virus since September of 2019 to 30.

Avian flu 'resolved' in Germany, Poland

Germany’s federal agriculture ministry has declared to the OIE that the avian flu situation has been “resolved” in the southern state of Baden Wurttemberg. The declaration follows a single outbreak of HPAI caused by the H5N8 virus variant in early February. Affecting a mixed backyard flock of poultry and canaries, a total of 69 birds were lost to the disease through mortality or culling.

In Poland, three series of HPAI outbreaks are now “resolved,” according to an official report to the OIE. In the southern province of Lublin, one wild bird had tested positive for the H5N8 virus in January of this year. Likely linked to that case, there were eight outbreaks in farmed poultry in the same province between the end of December and early January. More than 92,000 poultry died or were destroyed when the H5N8 virus was detected.

Over in western Poland, in the province of Lubusz, the same virus was involved in a series of 27 HPAI outbreaks on poultry farms. With the most recent cases confirmed at the end of March, Poland’s agriculture ministry had declared to the OIE the end of HPAI also in this region. Total losses in this outbreak series were in excess of 547,000 poultry.

In South Africa, there have been no new HPAI outbreaks in commercial ostriches. According to the agriculture department’s latest report to the OIE, the most recent outbreak linked to the H5N8 virus variant was in mid-January of this year. This virus was first detected in the country three years ago.

Avian flu situation in the U.S.

The Chesterfield County, South Carolina farm where the H7N3 HPAI virus was detected in early April remains quarantined, according to the latest update from the USDA to the OIE. Cleaning, virus elimination, and surveillance are on-going. Around 1,580 of the 34,160 meat turkeys at the premises died.

Avian flu virus was detected in four of the five poultry houses at this farm, reports U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). From samples from three of the houses, the virus was found to have a pathogenicity index (IVPI) of zero. This defines the virus involved as a low-pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) virus. Investigations revealed the origin of the virus to be in North American wild birds. In one other poultry house, the isolated virus had an IVPI of 2.47, indicating it is highly pathogenic. Samples from the remaining house revealed no avian flu viruses.

Twelve premises in North Carolina and South Carolina that tested positive for the H7N3 LPAI virus during March of this year remain in quarantine, according to the latest USDA-APHIS report. Three in North Carolina have been completely disinfected. Composting, cleaning, and virus elimination continue at a further eight farms in the state. Disinfection has been completed at the South Carolina premises. While surveillance continues, recent environmental tests have all been negative for the virus.  

Based on reports to the OIE, there were a total of 12 outbreaks of LPAI H7N3 during March of this year, involving a total of 305,250 turkeys. Two premises had breeding flocks, and meat birds were at the other 10. Eleven of the outbreaks were in North Carolina — nine in Union County, two in Anson County — and one was in Chesterfield County in South Carolina.

Two recent cases of avian influenza A in humans confirmed in China

Over the past two months, two new cases of avian influenza A(H9N2) have been confirmed in China, according to the latest update from the World Health Organization (WHO).

With the infections confirmed in March and April, the patients were young children—in Guangdong province, and Hunan, respectively. Both patients displayed mild symptoms, and have since recovered. Their infections were detected through influenza-like illness surveillance. One child had a history of exposure to domestic poultry, and the other to slaughtered poultry brought home from a live market.

Avian influenza A(H9N2) viruses are enzootic in poultry in Asia, and are increasingly detected in Africa, reports WHO.

Since 2003, WHO reports there have been 861 laboratory-confirmed cases avian influenza A(H5N1) in humans, 455 of whom died. The most recent case was in Nepal in 2019, and there had been no cases in the previous year.

For the avian influenza A(H7N9) virus, there have been a total of 1,568 human cases since 2013, according to the Centre for Health Protection in Hong Kong. The most recent case was reported in April of 2019.

The same source puts the number of human cases of avian influenza A(H5N6) reported globally since 2014 at 24. With the most recent case reported in August of last year, and all were in mainland China.

Researchers in the United Kingdom have developed a successful new approach to controlling avian influenza. They report it could not only offer quicker protection than vaccines, but also offers hope for the control of other diseases in poultry and humans.

View our continuing coverage of the global avian influenza situation.

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