Poland reveals new spike in avian flu cases

Over the past week, 17 new outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) have been confirmed in commercial Polish poultry flocks, with the majority around one disease “hot-spot.”

(bangoland | Bigstock)
(bangoland | Bigstock)

With the discovery of an HPAI “hot-spot” in one region last week, it is clear that Poland’s battle to control highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) is not yet over.

At least 17 new outbreaks have been confirmed by the chief veterinary office. All of these affected commercial farms. Of the total, 13 were located in one community in the county of Kalisz in Greater Poland (Wielkopolskie). Additional premises in the area were sampled for further testing. Total numbers and types of poultry involved are not reported.

Previously, presence of H5N8 HPAI virus had been confirmed in a mixed flock of more than 141,000 meat turkeys and broiler chickens in another town in the same county. Almost 9,700 meat ducks have tested positive for the virus at an unspecified location in the same province, Greater Poland. Elsewhere in Poland, a flock of more than 38,000 breeder ducks was affected in the southwestern province of Lower Silesia (Dolnoslaskie). In the neighboring province of Opole, outbreaks were reported in two duck flocks — one of breeders and one of meat birds.

These latest outbreaks bring Poland’s total this year to 51. As of March 22, the country’s outbreaks have reached 72 so far this winter, according to the European Reference Lab for avian influenza, IZSVe. These include 25 outbreaks among meat turkeys, 16 in laying hens, and 16 in meat ducks.

France: Avian flu situation under control, limited restocking permitted

According to data from the French agriculture ministry, there has been just one new outbreak of HPAI over the past week.

This occurred in the southwestern department of Gers, where the number of outbreaks now stands at 65. For other departments in this worst-affected region of the country, outbreak totals are unchanged — Landes (341 outbreaks) and Pyrénées-Atlantiques (58). As of February 19, the ministry’s latest figure for the number of poultry culled in the southwest of France due to HPAI is 3.5 million — mostly ducks.

In addition, there have been 14 confirmed HPAI outbreaks in poultry elsewhere in France. These include first cases in Upper Rhine (Haut-Rhine) in the east of the country.

French authorities have registered a new outbreak in poultry linked to a low-pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) virus. According to the official report to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), this was detected as a result of active surveillance in a flock of meat ducks in Collongues last week. This is located in the southwestern department of Upper Pyrenees (Hautes-Pyrénées).

Among wild birds, outbreaks currently stand at 16. Two most recent cases bring the total in Ardennes to two, and there is a first detection in Lower Rhine (Bas-Rhin).

In a statement last week, the ministry describes the avian flu situation as at a turning point.

With the total approaching 480, the number of new HPAI outbreaks has declined sharply over the past month. As a result, owners of farms affected in the five departments in the southwest of France are now permitted to restock their premises. However, the re-population must be gradual, and proceed under tight biosecurity conditions. Furthermore, replacement birds may be chickens, laying hens, guinea fowls or quail, but not ducks or geese.

Restocking with waterfowl in this region will be reviewed in the coming weeks, providing that the avian flu situation remains under control, the according to the government .

New avian flu outbreaks in Swedish poultry

Since last week, the Swedish Board of Agriculture has confirmed two new HPAI outbreaks, both affecting hobby flocks. These were located in the municipality of Hässleholm in the southern county of Skåne, and near to the capital, Stockholm.

According to official reports to the OIE over the past week, there have been five outbreaks in poultry linked to the H5N8 virus variant. These included a farm with 33,000 poultry at Vikingstad, and two flocks — a total of 49,000 organic laying hens at Skänninge. Both of these communities are in Östergötland. In Skåne, 53,200 broiler breeders at Ilstorp and 30,000 meat turkeys in Smedstorp have also tested positive for this virus during this month.

So far this winter, there have been 21 HPAI outbreaks among Swedish poultry and captive birds, according to IZSVe. An increase of six from the previous week, new cases have been linked to the H5N8 virus variant, and affected three flocks of laying hens, two of meat turkeys, and one of breeder chickens.

Germany registers new outbreaks in poultry in three states

Since mid-March, the number of detections of HPAI in Germany has risen by 132 to reach a total of 3,315, according to the national veterinary reference laboratory, Friedrich-Loeffler Institute. This total includes many cases among wild birds, including several recent positive tests in swans in the states of Brandenburg and Hesse.

Among the poultry testing positive for the virus over this period were turkeys, chickens, layer pullets, ducks, and geese in the states of Lower Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, and North Rhine-Westphalia.

For 2020-2021, ISZVe puts the number of HPAI outbreaks among German poultry at 125. This is an increase of 18 from the previous week, including 10 new outbreaks among meat turkeys in Lower Saxony. There have also been 119 new cases among wild birds, bringing the total to 897 so far this winter.

U.K. sets date to lift poultry housing order

The most recent case of HPAI in the United Kingdom (U.K.) was in a scavenging wild bird in northern England, according to the agriculture department, Defra. The bird tested positive for the H5N1 HPAI virus variant.

As there have been no new cases testing positive for any HPAI virus among poultry or captive birds in England since February, Defra announced last week that the risk of avian flu to both wild and kept birds has been lowered to “medium.”

This means that the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) that requires enhanced biosecurity will remain in force. However, poultry and other captive birds will no longer need to be housed, with effect from April 1. Bird gatherings continue to be prohibited, and high standards of biosecurity remain essential. Infection may still be present in the environment, Defra warns. This applies to England, and similar measures have been announced by the governments of Wales and Scotland.

AIPZ restrictions have been in place since mid-November of 2020.

In its latest report on the avian flu situation, Defra describes the detection of four HPAI H5 subtypes — H5N8, H5N1, H5N5 and H5N3 — in the same epidemic event as “unparalleled” in the U.K.. Through the H5 hemagglutinin gene, which is key for pathogenesis, host range, transmission, and host immunity, these variants are closely related. As long as they continue to circulate in wild birds, genetic reassortment is possible, leading Defra to call for continued surveillance and genetic analysis.

11 European states register new cases of HPAI on wild birds

Over the past week, OIE has received reports of wild birds testing positive for HPAI viruses from the Czech Republic, Croatia, Estonia, France, Latvia, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden. Among the Dutch cases was a first occurrence of the H5N4 virus strain, which was found in a wetland area of Friesland.

Furthermore, the European Reference Lab for avian influenza, IZSVe, has been notified of new cases in wild birds found in Austria, Denmark, and Finland.

Ukraine set to restart poultry exports despite new outbreaks

Last week, Kyiv Post reported that Ukrainian poultry exports to the European Union (EU) are set to resume. This follows EU acceptance of the zoning of Ukraine with respect to avian flu.

At the end of last month, presence of an H5 HPAI virus was detected in a village flock of around 560 poultry in the southern oblast of Mikolaiv. According to the official report to the OIE, more than 20 of the birds died, and the rest were destroyed. This was the seventh HPAI outbreak in this oblast since December of 2020.

Furthermore, the authorities also registered the first cases of an H5 HPAI virus in a number of wild swans found dead in Ternopil oblast in the west of Ukraine.

View our continuing coverage of the global avian influenza situation.

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