To reduce the vulnerability of the nation’s poultry to avian influenza, the French agriculture ministry has published two new orders.
The first of these was to define the areas of the country where spread of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) is highly likely once it is introduced. Designated as “dissemination risk areas” (ZRD), the two areas cover several departments in the Loire region in the west of France, as well as some of those in the south-west (Nouvelle-Aquitaine or New Aquitaine). This latter area was the location of the majority of the nation’s 492 HPAI outbreaks in the 2020-2021 season, with duck and goose flocks suffering heavy losses through mortality or culling.
In total, 539 municipalities have been included in the ZRDs. They are located in the departments of Gers, Landes, Loire-Atlantique, Lot-et-Garonne, Maine-et-Loire, Pyrénées-Atlantiques, Hautes-Pyrénées, Deux-Sèvres, and Vendée.
Second decree issued by the French ministry covers the required preventative measures at each premises with poultry or captive birds. Based on a biosecurity audit, details for each premises will depend on the poultry species, type of farm, and geographical area. When the disease risk is designated as “high,” all birds in the area must be kept housed.
During September, the ministry raised the avian flu risk level in France to “moderate.”
Since the start of last month, there have been four HPAI outbreaks in the country. While three were linked to the H5N8 virus variant in non-commercial flocks, one in wild birds involved the H7N7 subtype.
According to the official report to the OIE, a wild swan found dead in the city of Metz (Moselle region) tested positive for the H7N7 HPAI virus in mid-September. It was the first detection of this particular virus subtype in the country.
Poland continues towards AI-free status
Last week, Poland’s animal health authority declared to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) that the HPAI situation has been “resolved” across the nation. This applied to all three ongoing outbreak series in poultry.
Based on official notifications, there have been 213 confirmed outbreaks linked to the H5N8 HPAI virus variant in the country’s central and eastern provinces. Directly impacted were almost 9.15 million birds in total. The first outbreak occurred in December of 2020. With the last cases confirmed at a farm in early August, the authorities consider the outbreak series closed from August 27.
Late last month, the authority declared the outbreak series in Poland’s western provinces closed. This followed 122 outbreaks registered between November last year and May. Affected were just over 4.7 million poultry in outbreaks as a result of infection with the same virus subtype. September 25, 2021 was the date when this outbreak series ended.
Third and last was a series of outbreaks in the northern provinces of Pomerania and West Pomerania. This was also declared “resolved” during September. With the most recent outbreak closed on June 1, 25 premises had been infected. Almost 484,000 poultry were directly impacted in the period December-May.
Taken together, and based on OIE reports, the three outbreak series in Poland led to the loss of more than 14.3 million poultry to H5N8 HPAI virus since the end of 2020.
According to the Polish chief veterinary office, there were 360 HPAI outbreaks across the country between November last year and August. The last affected premises has been depopulated and undergone final disinfection, without any new cases detected.
Poland calls for lifting of trade bans, improved flock biosecurity
Following the official declaration, the veterinary office has called on its former export destinations to lift all restrictions on trade in Polish poultry meat and products.
With the aim of preventing future outbreaks in Poland, the same agency has recently approved a new national strategy for HPAI control.
With the recent news of an HPAI outbreak in its southern neighbor, the Czech Republic, Polish authorities are urging all poultry owners to strengthen biosecurity measures. For both private and commercial flocks, that means ensuring that wild species — which might transmit the infection — have no access to poultry feed, bedding or water. Where possible, measures should prevent poultry having any contact with wild birds and animals, according to the veterinary office.
HPAI returns to the Czech Republic
At the end of September, one HPAI outbreak was confirmed in a poultry flock in the Czech Republic. According to the official notification to the OIE, this was the first since May of this year. It brings the country’s total in 2021 so far to 39.
After six birds from the mixed backyard flock died, an HPAI virus of the H5 family was detected. Affected was a premises with 33 birds in the central region of Central Bohemia (Stredocesky).
The source of the infection is unknown. However, the Czech state veterinary administration reports that this was likely wild waterfowl. The flock owner was unable to rule out the possibility of contact between his birds and wild species.
All five geese in the affected flock died, as did one of the ducks. The remaining 11 ducks and 16 chickens were destroyed. Subsequently, the virus was identified as an H5N1 variant by the state veterinary institute.
Around one month prior to the outbreak, the Administration had reported that the OIE had published on its web site that the Czech Republic was free of avian influenza.
New outbreaks in Russia’s Urals, Volga federal district
In Russia, one new HPAI outbreak linked to the H5N1 virus variant has occurred in Tyumen oblast. This is located in the Urals federal district on the eastern margin of Europe.
According to the OIE report, a flock of 450 poultry tested positive for the virus after around 70 of the birds died in mid-September. The outbreak brings to five the number of locations where this virus has been detected in the Urals since June of this year. Affected have been two groups of wild pelicans, and now three flocks of non-commercial poultry. The earlier outbreaks in poultry were in groups of around 60 birds.
After an eight-month hiatus, three non-commercial poultry flocks in the Volga federal district have tested positive for an H5 HPAI virus. According to the official report to the OIE, the outbreaks have occurred since the end of September, and directly affected a total of 2,554 poultry of various species. One infected flock was located in each of the oblasts of Orenburg, Samara, and Saratov.
General avian flu situation across Europe
In 2021, 1,189 HPAI outbreaks in poultry have been registered across 19 European states. This is according to the latest update on the Animal Disease Information System of the European Commission (EC; as of September 29). The System does not cover Russia. In the whole of 2020, a total of 442 outbreaks in poultry were confirmed in 16 European states.
Recording the highest number of outbreaks was France (474 outbreaks for the year to date), although no cases have occurred for three months. Only Kosovo and Poland reported new cases to this System in August, and only the Czech Republic during September.
Based on information supplied to the same source, 29 countries have recorded 1,706 HPAI outbreaks in wild birds and non-commercial poultry flocks so far this year.
In the month of September, new cases in wild species or captive birds have been confirmed in Belgium, Finland, France, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, and Sweden.
Among wild birds, new cases have been reported to the OIE over the past two weeks in Finland (H5N1 and H5N8 virus variants), and Sweden (H5N1).
Sweden, United Kingdom declare avian flu situation resolved in wild birds
Earlier this month, Sweden’s animal health authority declared to the OIE that the HPAI situation in wild birds had been resolved. The declaration related to the following virus variants: H5, H5N1, H5N4, H5N5, and H5N8. Since the first cases at the end of October of 2020, more than 200 individual birds have tested positive for one or other of these viruses in Sweden.
From the United Kingdom (UK), the veterinary authority has reported to the OIE that a number of avian flu outbreaks in wild birds are now “closed.” This applies to the outbreaks in which the H5N1, H5N3, and H5N5 HPAI virus variants have been detected since late last year. These disease events effectively ended in July and January of 2021, and December last year for each of the variants, respectively.
With respect to the H5N1 HPAI virus detected in the UK, the authority confirmed that the variant detected belongs to the clade 22.214.171.124B. As such, its origins are in a low-pathogenic form of the virus, and not in the clade that has caused human infections sporadically since 2011.
View our continuing coverage of the global avian influenza situation.