France, Sweden undertake avian flu culls of poultry

Since the first cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) were confirmed in France late last year, two million poultry have now been culled to bring the disease under control.

(mashi_naz, Bigstock)
(mashi_naz, Bigstock)

While new cases infected with the H5N8 highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) virus continue to be detected in France, more poultry have been culled to control the further spread of infection. This figure now stands at more than two million birds, mostly ducks, according to the agriculture ministry. On January 14, the figure was 1.116 million, so it has almost doubled over two weeks.

As of January 27, the ministry put the total number of outbreaks in the country at 415 since the first cases in November last year. This total comprises 404 outbreaks in poultry. The great majority of the affected premises so far have been duck farms in the southwest of the country. The department of Landes accounts for 392 of the outbreaks. PyrĂ©nĂ©es-Atlantiques and Gers are also locations of multiple outbreaks — 38 and 30, respectively — and the first cases are now been discovered in Haute-Garonne.

In addition to poultry, the same virus has been detected among wild birds across France. Now standing at a total of 11, these virus-positive cases are widely distributed, particularly in coastal areas, and include a new case in Normandy on the north coast.

Sweden to cull layer flock of 1.3 million hens

Over the past two weeks, different HPAI viruses have been detected at two poultry farms in Sweden. The first of these was a turkey farm in the southern county of SkĂĄne. According to the official report to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), 750 of the birds died, and 1,600 have been destroyed after the H5N8 variant was detected.

Last week, a new outbreak linked to the H5N5 HPAI virus variant was reported by the Swedish Board of Agriculture. This involved a layer flock in the municipality of Mönsterås. Located in the county of Kalmar, this is also in the south of the country. This virus variant was last detected in Sweden in November of last year.

Initially, authorities planned to cull around half a million poultry in relation to this outbreak in SmĂĄland, according to ATL. However, investigations revealed that the virus had already spread further. As a result, 1.3 million hens and pullets at the premises will now be culled, and the farm will be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.

This is the fifth HPAI outbreak in Sweden since November — four in Skåne and the latest one in Kalmar. Restrictions on poultry movements are in place in both counties in relation to the three outbreaks in 2021.

First poultry outbreaks of 2021 registered by four European states

This year’s first HPAI cases among poultry flocks have been confirmed in the Czech Republic, Italy, Romania, and Slovakia to the European Commission (EC). This brings to 14 the number of European states reporting outbreaks to the EC through its Animal Disease Notification System European.

For the Czech Republic (Czechia), detection of the H5N8 HPAI virus in a backyard flock was the first of this winter. Around half of the 32 birds died at the premises in the South Bohemian region (Jihocesky) last week. The remaining birds have been culled, according to the veterinary authority’s latest official report to the OIE. HPAI virus was last detected in the country’s poultry in February of 2020.

Italy’s health authority and research organization for animal health and food safety IZSVe is reporting the recent detection of the H5N8 HPAI virus in two cranes that were part of a hobby flock that also included 11 chickens. All the birds have been culled at the premises at Lugo in Ravenna — a province in the Emilia-Romagna region in northeastern Italy.

HPAI had been absent from Romania for almost exactly one year before the H5N8 virus variant was found in a small poultry flock earlier this month. Affected was a flock of around 1,200 birds of mixed species, according to IZSVe. Located in Ilfov county near the capital Bucharest, the birds included ducks and geese, and were kept for scientific purposes.

Also detected in a backyard flock is Slovakia’s first HPAI outbreaks since March of 2020. According to the agriculture ministry report to the OIE, the H5N5 virus variant was found after more than half of the 70-bird flock died last week. Source of the infection is thought to be contact with wild bird species. The rest of the flock in the western region of Trnava has been destroyed.

Further outbreaks among poultry in Denmark, Germany, Poland

Over the past week, four new outbreaks linked to the H5N8 HPAI virus have been confirmed by the authorities in Germany. Three of these were in Lower Saxony — all in commercial poultry flocks and totaling more than 104,000 birds. They bring the total outbreaks in this state to 28. Brandenburg was the location of the other recent German outbreak, involving more than 8,000 poultry.

A second outbreak has been registered in Denmark with the OIE. Including poultry along with pheasants and mallard ducks for restocking game, the farm was in Viborg in the West region (Jutland). After some birds tested positive for the H5N8 virus, all 9,415 birds have been culled.

Three more HPAI outbreaks have been confirmed by Poland’s chief veterinary office this week, bringing the country’s total so far this year to 10. Latest to be affected are one laying flocks of 320,000 birds in Greater Poland, 27,600 breeding hens in Kuyavia-Pomerania, and a similar number of pullets in Pomerania.

Overview of recent HPAI virus detection in European wild birds

So far this year, 16 European states have registered one or more HPAI cases in wild birds with the EC. As of January 24, the total number of outbreaks is 99. This is an increase of 45 from the previous week, and Germany accounts for 55 of the total. Additional cases have been reported over the past week in Denmark, the Irish Republic, Norway, Poland, and Romania.

Six more countries have reported their first cases of the year to the EC — Czech Republic, Finland, France, Italy, Spain, and Sweden. In all these cases, the birds tested positive for the H5N8 virus.

To the OIE, Germany’s agriculture ministry has reported the H5N8 HPAI virus for the first time in a wild bird in the central state of Thuringia, and in Rhineland-Palatinate, which is in the southwest of the country.

In addition to the above, the organization has received reports of additional cases of HPAI in wild birds from Belgium and the United Kingdom (Scotland and England).

View our continuing coverage of the global avian influenza situation.

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