In France, the threat of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) has been downgraded. In contrast, new outbreaks in poultry have been reported in Bulgaria, Croatia, England, Hungary, the German state of Lower Saxony, and the Ryazan region of Russia.
Following further improvements in the disease situation in France, the agriculture ministry has officially lowered its assessment of the HPAI threat to “negligible.”
According to Minister Marc Fesneau on June 8, no new cases had been detected in the nation’s poultry flocks since May 17. Furthermore, he said, the weather has become less favorable for the survival of the virus, and seasonal wild bird migrations are almost complete.
Already in April, controlled repopulation of previously infected premises began in the southwest of France. For the Grand-Ouest region in the north-west of the country, this process started on June 1. According to the ministry, repopulation is being carried out by poultry type, and under intensive surveillance.
Across Europe since the start of the 2021-2022 winter, the HPAI virus serotype detected in the great majority of wild bird and poultry outbreaks has been the H5N1 variant.
The latest update from the French ministry (June 10) puts the total confirmed outbreaks on poultry farms at 1,378. While these were concentrated in the west of the country, one or more outbreaks occurred in 24 departments in eight of the 13 regions of mainland France. Furthermore, there have also been 35 outbreaks in the nation’s backyard flocks in five regions.
Official reports to the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH; formerly OIE) put the number of poultry directly impacted by these outbreaks at almost 15.7 million. This total includes mortalities and culls at infected farms up to April 19.
Following a second season of widespread and substantial losses of poultry from this disease, France is among the European Union states pushing for acceptance of HPAI vaccination.
Hungary struggles to control HPAI spread
Over the past two weeks, the national animal health agency in Hungary has officially confirmed a further nine HPAI outbreaks on poultry farms.
Of these, eight were in the previously affected southern county of Bacs-Kiskun, and confirmed in the period May 23-30. While six of the outbreaks were in commercial ducks and geese, two were in laying hens. These bring the country’s outbreak total since mid-April to 135, involving 1.92 million birds.
In eastern Hungary, first cases of HPAI have also been reported in Hajdu-Bihar. Affected was a flock of around 10,500 meat geese in the first week of June.
This latest outbreak brings to five the number of Hungary’s counties registering at least one HPAI outbreak since mid-April this year. Directly impacted have been just under three million poultry at 176 premises, mainly commercial farms.
First cases recorded in new areas of four other regions
Following a four-month hiatus, H5 HPAI virus returned to the northeastern province of Dobrich in the second week of June.
According to the WOAH notification, cases were detected in a commercial flock of 3,200 mule ducks as a result of passive surveillance.
In Croatia, 14 of the 17 birds in a backyard flock in the northeast of the country tested positive for the H5N1 virus serotype at the end of May. The flock was in the city of Beli Manastir, which is not far from the border with Hungary.
Also at the end of last month, the same virus variant was detected in a backyard flock in Russia’s Ryazan region. This was the first occurrence of HPAI linked to the H5N1 virus in this area. Since then, a second outbreak in a similar flock has been confirmed in a different district of the region, which is part of the Central federal district.
In early June, Germany’s Lower Saxony region registered cases of the same infection on a farm in the Aurich district. Affected was a flock of 14,850 poultry of unspecified type. The outbreak occurred around four weeks after an earlier outbreak series was reported as closed. Between November of last year and early April, this state recorded with WOAH 27 outbreaks in poultry linked to the same virus family.
Overview of avian flu situation in European poultry
As of June 10, 1,760 HPAI outbreaks had been registered across Europe so far in 2022. This is according to the latest update of the Animal Disease Information System by the European Commission (EC).
To date, one or more outbreaks have occurred in 20 European countries over this period.
This year’s outbreak figure has just overtaken the total of 1,756 outbreaks registered with the EC by 24 European states throughout 2021.
Of the 28 new outbreaks since the previous update on May 27, the highest increase — 16 — was registered by Hungary. Now with 1,341 outbreaks recorded with the EC, France continues to be the European state worst affected by disease this year. Hungary’s total has risen to 206 — the second highest outbreak total for 2022 so far. Next comes the Netherlands with 37 outbreaks.
Since the start of June, three new HPAI outbreaks have been confirmed in the Netherlands. All occurred on farms in the same area — Hierden in the province of Gelderland. Two of these premises reared only ducks, while the third also kept laying hens. Surveillance in this area has been intensified.
In England, the number of confirmed HPAI outbreaks in poultry since the start of the 2021-2022 winter has risen to 102.
Since the start of June, presence of the H5N1 HPAI virus has been detected at two more locations. According to the agriculture department, Defra, cases have been confirmed in meat turkeys at a second farm in Ludlow in the western county of Shropshire, and also in unspecified poultry at Bexhill-on-Sea in East Sussex on the south-east coast.
As part of the United Kingdom (U.K.), these latest outbreaks in England are not included in the EC’s system.
HPAI cases continue among Europe’s wild birds
For the year to date, HPAI outbreaks in wild birds across Europe reported to the EC notification system have reached 1,855 (as of June 10). A total of 31 countries in the region have registered at least one outbreak in wild species through this system.
For comparison, 2,437 HPAI outbreaks in wild birds were registered with the EC — also by 31 European states — during the whole of 2021.
Noteworthy is that over the past two weeks, new cases of HPAI in the wild population have been detected in 14 countries across the continent. Although generally involving few individuals, these have been reported from Iceland and Spain to the Caspian Sea.
In the U.K., conservationists say that HPAI is wiping out some of the nation’s seabirds. Already under pressure from climate change and overfishing, large numbers of gannets and other threatened species have been affected, according to New Scientist. Almost 40% of Svalbard barnacle geese that migrate between Scotland and Norway have died since the start of the winter.
Recently, the epicenter for wild bird deaths has been the islands north of Scotland.
According to a WOAH spokesperson, wild birds have been particularly affected during this avian flu season. Mortalities have been higher and more geographically widespread than before.
Across to the east of Europe, mass mortality of 2,200 seabirds has occurred in an island national park in the Caspian Sea. Russia’s veterinary authority notified WOAH of this event, which began on late May.
In contrast, H5N1 HPAI is wild birds is reported as resolved in Greece in early June. Since December of last year, around 600 cases were found dead at 16 locations in the north of the country.
View our continuing coverage of the global avian influenza situation.