First HPAI cases of the season in Bulgaria, Portugal

Bulgaria and Portugal have become the latest countries in Europe to report highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) this winter in their respective poultry sectors.

(bangoland | Bigstock)
(bangoland | Bigstock)

Bulgaria and Portugal have become the latest countries in Europe to report highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) this winter in their respective poultry sectors. Meanwhile, the number of poultry involved in outbreaks in Italy has risen to more than 6.86 million, and the infection has spread to a fourth region. 

As the first cases are reported in Portugal, HPAI has already spread from east to west across the continent of Europe. 

So far, 22 countries have registered at least one outbreak of the disease in poultry in 2021, according to the European Commission (EC; as of December 5). This agency monitors the health of poultry and other birds in the European Union and other selected countries. Add to these ongoing outbreaks in Russia, and the United Kingdom (U.K.), and the total number of states trying to control the disease stands at 24.

At the start of December, The Portugal News reported that HPAI had been detected in a poultry flock in Setubal. Details of the flock are not reported, but the disease has not been found in a commercial flock. The affected premises is near to the capital city of Lisbon on Portugal’s western coast. Elevated mortality was observed, and presence of the H5N1 HPAI virus was confirmed.

Following confirmation of the disease, the country’s veterinary authority activated its prepared HPAI contingency plan. 

First cases of the winter in Bulgaria

Also reporting the first HPAI cases of the 2021-2022 winter is Bulgaria, according to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). 

Since mid-November, five outbreaks have been confirmed in poultry, although the virus serotype has yet to be identified. Affected have been two commercial farms, a flock of pheasants, and two small backyard flocks. Four of these were located in the central-southern province of Plovdiv, and one in neighboring Pazardzhik. In total, some 120,000 birds have been directly involved.

More than 130 outbreaks in Italian poultry flocks

As of December 2, 135 poultry flocks in Italy have tested positive for HPAI since mid-October. This is according to the nation’s health authority and research organization for animal health and food safety, IZSVe. The presence of the H5N1 virus serotype has been confirmed in the great majority of the outbreaks, and of an H5 virus at all locations. 

This increase of 33 outbreaks since November 26 includes the first outbreak in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region, and the largest single outbreak. This involved almost 866,000 laying hens in the province of Verona. Located in the region of Veneto, this is the province where the majority of cases have so far been detected. Outbreaks have also occurred in other provinces of Veneto, as well as some in Lombardy and Lazio (Rome).

Directly impacted by HPAI in Italy so far this winter have been 6.86 million birds. 

There is no easing of the disease situation yet in sight. The latest update (as of December 3) from IZSVe puts the number of confirmed outbreaks in Italy at 145. 

Avian flu returns to poultry in two German states

Animal health agencies in Bavaria and Thuringia have reported this season’s first cases of HPAI to the OIE. 

At the end of November, the H5N1 virus variant was detected in a backyard chicken flock in the south-eastern state of Bavaria. According to the OIE report, a backyard flock of 45 birds was affected. 

The following day, a mixed flock of 330 poultry tested positive for the same virus serotype in Thuringia, which borders Bavaria to the north. 

In the west, North Rhine-Westphalia registered five additional outbreaks. Of these, four were on commercial farms, and they bring the state’s total outbreaks so far to eight. 

To this state’s north and east is Lower Saxony. Here, the outbreak total stands at nine, as a flock of around 1,280 breeding geese tested positive for the H5N1 HPAI virus at the end of November.

Additional HPAI outbreaks in poultry in northern Europe

Since the end of November, the H5N1 HPAI virus has been detected in nine more poultry flocks in the U.K.

According to the agriculture department, Defra, there was one outbreak in each of Scotland and Wales, while the other seven affected flocks were in England.  The North Yorkshire town of Thirsk has registered seven of England’s 28 outbreaks so far this winter. Totals for Scotland and Wales currently stand at two and three outbreaks, respectively. 

In the first days of December, the agriculture department of Northern Ireland, DAERA reported the territory’s first suspected HPAI cases of the winter. Symptoms were observed first in a commercial ducks in County Tyrone, and then in a small mixed backyard flock in County Antrim.

In the Republic of Ireland, HPAI is suspected in a third poultry flock in County Monaghan. The Irish government reports that disease control measures have been stepped up as the H5N1 HPAI virus serotype was detected in commercial egg-laying hens near Castleblayney. According to reports to the OIE, the previous outbreaks affected meat turkeys in the same area, and then a broiler breeder flock near Latton.

In France, the number of poultry flocks that have tested positive for the HPAI virus so far this winter has risen to five. 

Two of these were in commercial flocks, according to the agriculture ministry. Both were in the department of Nord. Also found to be infected have been three backyard flocks. Two of these were in Ardennes, and one in Aisne. These departments are all neighbors in the north of France, and share a border with Belgium.

In the far south of Sweden, the H5N1 HPAI virus was detected in a small hobby flock at the end of November.  

Overview of avian flu situation in Europe’s poultry flocks

Since the start of November, 13 states have registered new outbreaks in their respective poultry sectors. This is according to the latest update of the Animal Disease Information System of the EC.

As of December 5, a total of 1,443 HPAI outbreaks in poultry had been reported by 22 European states so far this year. 

For comparison, a total of 442 outbreaks of HPAI in poultry were registered through the EC system in 2020. In that year, cases were reported by 16 states, and Hungary was the worst affected (273 outbreaks).

At the end of November, Croatia recorded its first cases of HPAI in poultry of this season with the EC.

Based on EC data, Poland’s total outbreaks for 2021 so far has risen to 371, the Czech Republic’s to 43, and Hungary’s to 37. 

HPAI outbreak total in European wild birds approaches 2,200

So far this year, 31 countries in Europe have registered a total of 2,186 HPAI outbreaks in wild birds with the EC (as of December 5). For comparison, a total of 756 outbreaks in 13 of the region’s states were registered with the EC over the whole of 2020.

Numbers of cases continue to climb. Since the start of November, 13 states have confirmed one or more cases of HPAI in wild birds through this notification system.

Yet to be included in the EC system are recent cases of HPAI in wild birds in Luxembourg, Romania, and Sweden. A number of wild birds have also tested positive for H5N1 HPAI virus in the U.K. since mid-October.

View our continuing coverage of the global avian influenza situation.
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